detach from worldly things

“Be brave and try to detach your heart from worldly things.
Do your utmost to banish darkness from your mind and come to understand what true,
selfless piety is.
Through confession, endeavor to purify your heart of anything which may still taint it.
Enliven your faith, which is essential to understand and achieve piety.”

St. John Bosco


(St John Bosco)

There is so much more that I’d like to write about John Bosco, this educator/saint,
but again time is not on my side.

Hopefully, I will do so, God willing, as time allows.

But until then, I’ve included a brief biography of this man from Turin, Italy below.

This past school year was a very trying time for my daughter-n-law.
And that is putting it mildly.

Here she was, a new young first-time mother of a young child learning to manage
motherhood and her work…as work was anything but easy.

She had taught school in the public sector for several years, earning the reputation
as a stellar educator.

This past year, due to moving and making home in Atlanta, she made the move to a parochial school.

Initially, the hire seemed to be a God-send.
The woman who hired her, the then acting principal, was moved by my daughter-n-law’s record as
an educator as well as her exceptional interview.

Yet as fate would have it, this woman retired only to be replaced by an interim principal.

To say that the replacement was a bully and difficult would be an understatement.

As a veteran educator of 31 years, when I had the opportunity to meet her fellow colleagues
at her baby shower, I was struck at how miserable this staff actually was.

The entire staff hated this bullying tyrant acting principal—several vowed to quit,
many long-time veterans were fearful their contracts would not be renewed.
All the while this sadistic man seemed to have a laser of extreme hatred,
focused on his co-teacher, our daughter-n-law.

I was fretful because as our daughter-n-law was very pregnant, I was more than aware of
what outward stress internalized could possibly do to an unborn child.

We were all on pins and needles as our hands felt tied.

Frustrated and anxious summed up the winter months.

At the end of February, our son and daughter-n-law bought a new rug.
I was there the day they brought the rug home.
As we unrolled the rug, we found what first appeared to be a half dollar rolled up
inside the rug.

Upon further inspection it was a St John Bosco medal.

Hummmm…

We are not a Catholic family so my son and daughter-n-law were a bit perplexed
and unaware of who this man was.

My quasi-Catholic self knew good and well about St. John Bosco.

“Abby”, I exclaimed, “don’t you see…this is St John Bosco…he is more or less
the patron saint for educators…”
“It is a sign…God sees and He knows of your troubles…you’ve got to trust”

I had no doubt after this “coincidence” that God was at work.
Because in my world there are no coincidence but rather only the
workings of the Holy Spirit.

It’s is a long story that I will save, but circumstances grew to such a level that this
hateful man actually painted himself into a corner.
Word was issued, via e-mail, during Spring Break that this principal had been relieved of his duties
and would not be returning.

It was an answered prayer not only for our family, but also for entire school staff.

God hears, God sees, and God knows…

It is us, His often lost and clueless children, who so often need reminding.

St. John Bosco reminded our small family…

Saint John Bosco’s Story

John Bosco’s theory of education could well be used in today’s schools. It was a preventive system, rejecting corporal punishment and placing students in surroundings removed from the likelihood of committing sin. He advocated frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. He combined catechetical training and fatherly guidance, seeking to unite the spiritual life with one’s work, study and play.

Encouraged during his youth in Turin to become a priest so he could work with young boys, John was ordained in 1841. His service to young people started when he met a poor orphan in Turin, and instructed him in preparation for receiving Holy Communion. He then gathered young apprentices and taught them catechism.

After serving as chaplain in a hospice for working girls, Don Bosco opened the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales for boys. Several wealthy and powerful patrons contributed money, enabling him to provide two workshops for the boys, shoemaking and tailoring.

By 1856, the institution had grown to 150 boys and had added a printing press for publication of religious and catechetical pamphlets. John’s interest in vocational education and publishing justify him as patron of young apprentices and Catholic publishers.

John’s preaching fame spread and by 1850 he had trained his own helpers because of difficulties in retaining young priests. In 1854, he and his followers informally banded together, inspired by Saint Francis de Sales.

With Pope Pius IX’s encouragement, John gathered 17 men and founded the Salesians in 1859. Their activity concentrated on education and mission work. Later, he organized a group of Salesian Sisters to assist girls.

Saint John Bosco

An unexpected interruption, the question of shot or no shot and finally, the wisdom of Mary Poppins

“Everything is possible,
even the impossible”

Mary Poppins


(Emily Blunt and the always enchanting Angela Lansbury in the new Mary Poppins
movie as seen on our son’s TV)

Ok, so where was I…??

Ok, so maybe the question should be… where in the heck have I been?

When we were last together, I think I made mention that we were off to see the Mayor…
bringing her home with us for a few days…

Well…we did…sort of…….

A week ago Monday evening, late, we got a call from our son.
Or someone who was supposed to be our son who was sounding very puny, croaky and cloggy.

A pained voice informed us “I’ve just gotten back from Urgent Care and I have the flu
so you’ve got to come get the baby NOW!!!
The doctor told me not to be around her.”

“Ok” I’m thinking.
Your wife is 8 months pregnant, your 13th-month-old has been right there—
you’ve all been together in very close proximity up until now—
so if anyone is getting the flu…
well, that ship sailed days ago when you first started feeling bad.

That’s how viral things work—they make the rounds before you even realize
they’re at work making the rounds.

“We’ve planned on coming tomorrow …
I don’t think the night is going to alter the course of viral destiny”

I calmly respond to a panicked first-time dad.

“We’ve had the flu shot.
We’ve all had the flu shot…
even Autumn had the flu shot…”

He practically wails apologetically with deep lamentations.

“Oh well” I quip a bit caustically.

For you see, at this very moment, I too was oddly not feeling well.
I felt chilled and suddenly zapped of all energy as well as slightly nauseated with a headache.

“Buck up,” I hear an inner voice commanding from someplace deep inside my head.

The satellite Woobooville office was all set-up and good to go—
awaiting our return back home with the Mayor.

‘We are to be on a rescue mission’
I defiantly proclaimed while trying to dismiss what my body was now feeling.

“I don’t feel well” I heard myself tell my husband…
“I’m going on to bed”

“But it’s just 9 o’clock”

“I can’t help it, I’m freezing”

About an hour later I was running a frighteningly odd yet very low-grade fever,
all the while I was violently shaking.

I asked for some Motrin.

And it was just about this very moment in time when my husband began complaining
about having the same symptoms.

This made for a very long, sleepless night of misery.

And yet we were still having to drive over to Atlanta bright and early to rescue the Mayor,
I was more than fretful.

That’s when I noticed how badly my left arm was hurting.

Hummmmmm…

For you see… I’ve failed to share with you that is was on that Monday
(last Monday as you read this today), that both my husband and myself went to get a shot.

A preventative vaccine mind you.

Similar to the preventative flu vaccine our son had gotten.

It was the Shingles shot.

When we went to our pharmacy on Monday Morning, in order to get the shots,
I explained to the pharmacist that we were planning on getting our
13-month-old granddaughter the following day…
so would she be ok with our getting the shot?

“Of course no problem.”

HA!

By Tuesday morning my arm was in full-blown shingles mode.

A burn/bruise-like area the size of a large eggplant covered my arm—
but not at the injection site.
It hurt terribly on a deep level yet was itchy on an up top level.

Eyes now rolling in my head.

My husband had no rash but redness at the injection site along with a
horrific headache, fever and chills.

We struggled to get ourselves up and dressed…
Yet we loaded up the car and headed off to the Mayor’s.

Our son was to be out of town the coming weekend and desperately was trying to
make that still happen—
he stayed home the day we arrived but went on into work the following days
as not to miss any more work.

In the meanwhile, the Mayor came home with us.

They had fretted how she might be feeling.

The Mayor, however, was having none of this as she felt great.
In fact, she was feeling so great, she was actually a live wire—
albeit a live wire with a
very runny and snotty nose.

The next day, I noticed I now had a sore throat and a very cloggy snotty nose
and a headache…
still with my eggplant looking “faux” shingle rash.

The Mayor’s aides were more than puny.
And keeping up with a live wire when feeling puny makes for a tough go.

I called the doctor telling the nurse what was going on.

She calls back the following day.

“Yeah, we’ve heard this shot has had those sorts of reactions…
but as it’s a two-part shot, you’ll need to follow up with the booster
in a couple of months.”

“And get the very viral infection I was trying to avoid in the first place
for a second time??!!”
I incredulously announce rather than ask.
“Thanks but no thanks,” I reply before curtly hanging up.

A week before we picked up the Mayor for her visit, our daughter-n-law informed
her OBGYN that her baby daughter, aka the Mayor,
had gotten what was thought to be Fifth’s Disease.

Such a name comes from the all-knowing medical folks who simply ran out of things
to say when telling everyone
“oh, it’s just a viral infection– you’ll simply have to wait it out”

They decided to give the latest “wait it out” illness a name.
Fifths Disease.

Now if you count Sunday day one in the week…then this disease was named on
Thursday…the fifth day of the week.
But if you’re like most working folks, you count Monday as the first day of the week,
which in turn makes Friday the actual day Fifth’s Disease was named—-
and Lord knows we couldn’t
name a random disease after everyone’s favorite day of the week…
hence the name–Fifth’s Disease.

After having blood drawn then processed, the nurse calls to inform our
daughter-n-law that she is actually immune from Fifth’s Disease.

Who knew one to be immune from a virus?!

Kind of what I was hoping to be from the Shingles.
Immune.

Go figure!

Should the Mayor come down with the Chicken Pox,
knowing I’d eventually be a helping nurse,
I didn’t want to, in turn, get the shingles—
since I had the chicken pox at age 5.

So it turns out that all I had to do was to get the preventative vaccination
and I’d in turn, get the virus.
Kind of like our son and the flu.

Is this beginning to smell of something fishy—
like a little pharmaceutical racket???

Ahh, but I digress.

And so a very rotten puny me headed back to Atlanta Friday,
following the torrential downpours,
in order to take the Mayor home and to spend the weekend with our daughter-n-law while
our not so well son went on out of town as planned.

That had been the plan.

The plan before all the shots made everyone sick.

Our daughter-n-law’s faculty friends were giving her a baby shower for the new baby
(aka the new sheriff in town) on Saturday—
I was to go along with her and the Mayor.

We eventually did—and it was a lovely gathering…
A great bunch of Catholic Parochial school teachers.

Yet all the while… I had a Shingle’s arm and flu-like symptoms from
what our son must have passed along via the Mayor.

Did I mention that we, as in my daughter-n-law, the Mayor and myself
were having to dog sit?
As in a friend of our son’s was leaving his boy dog in their care.
As in an unfixed boy dog that is actually a herding dog…
as in a herding sheep sort of dog?
A herding sheep sort of dog that is oddly being made to be an indoor
pet named Alf.

All the makings of a worst case scenario.

He is a nice enough dog that is wound up like a nervous ninny–
hence the suppressed need to be herding…

And so it fell upon the Mayor to be the chosen item for herding—

despite the Mayor’s wailful protests.


(The Mayor and her watchdog Alf / Julie Cook / 2019)

Think indoor chaos.
Indoor chaos for a sick chief aide and an 8-month pregnant overworked teacher and an impatient
13-month old Mayor.

Note, the Mayor’s actual dog Alice is on a long term vacation due to the arrival of
the herding indoor non-fixed sheepdog.

I was actually supposed to stay until tomorrow, until when our son got home—
however, I was slowly dying and desperately needed to head home as soon as possible
so I could simply crash and burn in the comfort of my own home…

But before I do so… crash and burn that is—
allow me to briefly share with you about our having watched the new Mary Poppins movie
with the Mayor Saturday evening.

Now back in 1964 when the original Mary Poppins movie debuted, I was 5.
My dad, a big kid himself, made certain to take me to see the movie in the theater.

Granted I’ve rewatched the movie throughout the years ever since that year of 1964…
yet I have oddly never been a huge fan.
I liked it well enough as a child but found it to be somewhat odd and boring.

Maybe I just wasn’t a musical loving child at the time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke…but the movie
didn’t do much for me when I was a little girl.

However, while I was there helping, or more like dying–
whichever way you’d like to look at it,
my daughter-n-law suggested we watch the movie.
She told me she thought I’d love this latest new version.

They had just gotten a new television and I must confess, not being a huge TV
nut like our son or even like my dad had been, I have to admit,
the picture quality was indeed amazing.

And yes I really did enjoy this new version versus that classic version
of my childhood—
Which is really quite something given the fact that I am never a huge fan of the re-makes.

Maybe it was because I was feeling poorly…very poorly.
Maybe it was because Dad will have been gone now 2 years tomorrow.
Maybe it was because there we were in what had been his house, dad’s house, and my house
and now their house…
all the while watching a movie whose story merely picked up 25 years past the original story…
picking up where the original movie’s children were now grown up with their own lives of bluster,
loss, and need—much like my own life.

But Mary Poppins, this enigmatic figure, who mysteriously yet magically appears in the most
timely of times, arriving out of a burst of stormy winds,
all at the singular moment when one is at their most dire times of need—
albeit one who has no idea of the depth of that need…
A time when one is in great need of her eclectic whimsy and almost militaristic regime
of peculiar order…

She arrives for the person who needs to be reminded that nothing is ever truly lost.
She reminds her charges that those things, which at first glance appear to be impossible,
are never really that way at all but are actually possible all along…
for it’s all just a matter of one’s perspective.

And so I found my thoughts dancing over to the idea of our relationship with our loving Father,
the Great I AM…

He who comes not in the earthquake or the fire, or the storm…
but the One who rather comes to us in the stillness of a whisper…
always reminding us that with Him, nothing is ever lost nor is it ever impossible.

So thank you Mary Poppins…maybe it was the fever talking, but thank you for reminding me
that with God, nothing, in particularly me, is ever lost… and no matter what I do,
with God’s help, all things are indeed possible…

Oh, and when “they” tell you to get the shot…run like hell the other way.

But Jesus looked at them and said,
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26

She died stringing beans

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Hamlet / William Shakespeare


(tomb in Santa Maria sopra Minerva / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

“After William Shakespeare’s Horatio sees the ghost of Hamlet’s father and
scarcely believes his own eyes, Hamlet tells him that there is more to reality
than he can know or imagine including ghosts.”

So reads a small excerpt I recently came across when flipping through a new book catalog
I’d just received in the mail.
The catalog is from Ignatius Press and the excerpt was part of a brief overview
for a new book release by both college professor and Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft.

I found the Shakespeare piece, the quote from Hamlet, quite telling.

That there is indeed more to this reality of ours…with death being a bit of a doorway…
not so much the ghost thing…as I do believe in a spiritual warfare…but this is
not about that…not today anyway…

But I should confess that every once in a while I do find my thoughts turning to my
own mortality.
Perhaps that’s a bit morbid, but hey, it happens.

I suppose such thoughts increase as one’s age increases.

Since I hit another birthday last week, I suppose such thoughts concerning both
life and death are just typical brain fodder.

You know when you’re actually closer to that magic number that those supposed experts
keep telling us is a typical life expectancy age for a relatively healthy US woman…
well, the reality becomes a bit hard to ignore.

I’ve mentioned before that if you have ever lived through losing, utterly prematurely, a
loved one or perhaps a dear friend due to a catastrophic illness or tragic accident…
you naturally find yourself wondering, more often than others,
‘when might my your own number get called up??’

So yesterday while I found myself standing at the kitchen sink…a sink full of green beans
that needed snapping and stringing before being cooked…my thoughts wandered off course.

And by the way, I don’t know why but I can never find fresh pole beans this time of year…
just those generic string beans now sold in pre-packaged plastic bags all imported from
south Florida or worse…California….anywhooo, I digress.

So there I was mindlessly stringing and snapping a sink full of imported beans as my mind
started wandering.

My thoughts actually got around to the notion of what if I did just suddenly fall out
here at the sink…
what if I dropped dead while stringing these beans…???!!
I suppose they could sadly write my epitaph “She died stringing beans”

But there are certainly worse ways to go.

And in typical fashion for my life, that’s how it will be you know.
It won’t be like something out of the movies but rather it will be
nothing I will have expected or planned on.
Death doesn’t work that way.

With a healthy melding of both humility and hubris, I’ve always thought it will never
be in some sort of glorious heroic sort of finale.
It’ll be more like something stupid or either something plain awful.

Funny how the brain and ego work in tandem when imagining one’s own ending.

Death waits for no man, and if he does, he usually doesn’t wait long…
That quote comes from Markus Zusak, author of The Book Theif (I didn’t care for the book)

So yes, Mr. Zusak is correct, Death doesn’t wait.

And I think we’d all agree that Death, here in our realm, is mostly perceived as
something most tragic and dreaded…
It’s a permanent-seeming sort of separation and, for far too many, it can be
a painfully slow and lingering happening.
And the odd thing is…that when it is long and painful, we then view Death as a blessed
release.
We even note that the one suffering suffers no more.

Yet death is a thought that leaves all of us unsettled…
particularly when we think about our own demise.

Chances are all of us, at one point or another has mused over when, where, how and why…

Yet what we must remember is that in the mind of God, death is more or less liberating.
It’s the cutting of an earthbound tether… as we humans suffer from
a gravitational pull that keeps us grounded… and Heaven knows, we certainly like
our earthly grounding.
But the cutting of the earthly tether allows for a reunion.
A reunion between Creator and created…
it’s just that we don’t always think of it those sorts of terms.
Instead, we dread it or simply see it more as an ending rather than a beginning.

It’s hard to imagine that death is actually an act of ‘freeing’ us.
Yet for me, it tends to be more of a scary thought than not.

For those of us who lay our hearts, our lives, our sins, our hopes at the foot
of the cross…
those of us who die on the Cross with Christ and are in turn risen from the tomb with
Christ Resurrected…death should not be seen as the ending but rather the beginning…
but yet I’ll be the first to admit, it’s a bit scary walking out into that unknown.

So as I was stringing my beans, I quickly realized that our idea of death is not God’s
idea of death…and that in itself alone is a very good thing.

When I recently visited the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, I
was taken aback a bit when I saw two separate tombs that actually had the real skulls
of the deceased embedded into the tombs as part of the elaborate construction.

A somewhat creepy reminder of our own mortality.

Just like those catacombs in France and other places scattered around the world…
catacombs with thousands of human bones..those of deceased monks,
elaborately displayed in a macabre reminder that from dust we come and to dust,
we will return.

And so as we prepare to enter into this season of Advent, that season of waiting and
watching…
A time of anticipation, birth and the newness of life…we must be mindful that the
shadow of the Death remains…
it remains not to frighten us but rather to offer us hope.
The Hope of Life which comes through the Ressurection of a life that overcame Death.

A hard concept to wrap our earth bound heads around, but wrap we must because it is in
our dying that we truly have our life…

It remains not as a harbinger but rather as a reminder…harbinger being man’s idea as
Hope is God’s idea…

And thus the reminder being….that Jesus, through His own death, overcame our death,
allowing us to live…to truly live with Him.

Therefore in Christ, we gloriously find birth, life, death and then finally life eternal…
all intertwined.
A gift as it were…with it being the best gift our Heavenly Father could give…
that being a reunited life free of sin or earthly strife…

So tomorrow when I find myself making a pumpkin pie, who knows where my thoughts will
lead me…at least my epitaph won’t read she died stringing beans…
dying while making a pumpkin
pie certainly sounds so much more festive…complete with whipped cream…


(images from The Bascilica of Santa Maria sopa Minerva / Julie Cook / 2018)

diluted

“The holy hour for Germans will be at hand when the symbol of their reawakening–
the flag with the swastika—
has become the only true confession of faith in the Reich.”

Alfred Rosenberg


(a sanderling drips water from his bill / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

Always with the passing of time, words and thoughts that once had been pointed, hard, difficult and even monstrous…take on a softening, a smoothing and even entirely
different meanings then their original intent.

That is not necessarily a good thing but rather a result of time….
because time has a way of diluting truth and clouding the mind.

We see a lot of this sort of thing happening today in our own current time.
We hear words that once meant one thing now meaning something else entirely as
new generations decode a past into something else totally other than what was an
original intent.

We hear a lot of folks today throwing around words such as fascism, Nazi, swastika, tolerant, intolerant, socialist, ideology…to name but a few now oddly shapened words.
And chances are most of the folks throwing around these odd words aren’t old enough to
remember the time in which such words first came into being.

So with the passage of time these previous words, now oddly shapened, have become diluted…their meanings today are entirely different to a new generation who has added them to their current caustic vocabulary.

Our current history lessons, having grossly failed the original context of each word,
as well as the generations of the up and coming who are grasping blindly
and wildly at said words, risk being rewritten forever if those of us who know better and who know the Truth fail to tell it.

Ignorance has mingled with ego and bravado creating a toxic ill informed cocktail.
As sadly these current times do not seem to notice their mirrored image to that
of an equally caustic, angry and bravado laced time…

In his book The Book Thieves, Anders Rydell does an excellent job of laying out the historical facts more succinctly than any current US High School history book that
covers the rise of the NSDAP, or what is commonly
referred to as the Nazi party, in Germany pre WWII.

His numerical facts, while overwhelming and staggering, are painfully precise.
His timeline of events is pinpoint accurate.
Such precision, as is found in his tale, is both a wonder and a stalk reminder of the darkest days of the twentieth century yet is purely a tale recounting the
plundering of books.

With the very word plundered / plundering being far from today’s current vocabulary.

For in our current minds, it is hard to phantom the complete wiping out of
libraries or collections of books when we have grown accustomed to cheap paperback
romance novels being picked up at the corner drug store to the more recent vanguard of electronic books….

To our modern minds, books are basically an endless commodity…
for they are as far as the internet may reach.
Meaning that to this current generation, the notion of an entire book collection
being wiped from the planet, rendering various texts more or less extinct, is incomprehensible.

Because surely you can find it on the internet right?

Yet there was a time when books were investments, sacred, and treasured.
Numbers of various writings limited.
There was no endless supply.

It is difficult for our modern minds to comprehend authorities entering into our homes while carrying away our books.
Important papers, valuables…yes…but our books? No.

What if the books by your bedside table were suddenly gone, considered
contraband against the State?
Your family Bible being considered dangerous or even insubordinate against the State.
Impossible you say…but there was a time when that was more fact than fiction.
As it would behoove us to remember it is continuing to this very day…

“Until 1939 the Nazis had devoted themselves to fighting their internal enemies,
such as German Jews, socialists, Communists, liberal, Freemasons and Catholics.
This ideological war was now to fan out across Europe in the wake of the Wehrmacht’s
victorious armies.”

(p.104)

So we see that Nazi Germany was two things.

It was a military force as well as an ideological force.
There were generals and soldiers who fought with guns, plans and tanks
and there were those who fought with thoughts and ideas…

“The Nazis waged their war on two levels: first, by conventional means, with their
armies pitched against other in military conflict, and second, by war against the ideological opposition.
The latter was not a conflict that took place on the battlefield;
it was rather a silent war of disappearances, terror, torture, murder and
deportation, whose frontline soldiers were the Gestapo, the SD, and other parts of
the regime’s terror machine.
It was a war in which the intention was not to vanquish but to liquidate.”

(P 104)

“To form the generation that would lead the Third Reich into the future, the
traditional school system was not enough.
In order to create a fundamentally new human being, a new kind of school would be required.”

(p. 88)

“Under the Nazis, the classroom became a microcosm of the totalitarian state.”
(p. 88)

As I read Rydell’s meticulous tale I understood that the Nazi war machine was more than
Mein Kampf, Adolph Hitler, Heinrich Himmler or Herman Goering and their insatiable appetites for apparently world domination, but rather there was a even a more sinister
individual involved.

One may even speculate that Alfred Rosenberg was just as instrumental in the
rise of the Nazi’s mania machine as much as Adolph Hiter.
Rosenberg was the father of the ideology and philosophy behind the National Socialist movement, whereas Hitler was the outward visionary.
It was Rosenberg who laid the structural foundation.
Yet with each man being equally as deranged in their desires for a new Germany.

However we of the modern world scratch our heads as we wonder as to how a Nation that
was considered to be the most culturally developed and brilliant of nations could
succumb to the grandiose vision of madmen.

“When the Nazis came to power, the German school and university system
was considered the best in the world.
No other school system had produced more Nobel Prize winners.
By 1933 Germany had won thirty three Nobel Prizes, while the United States had won
only eight”

(p.86)

I am reminded of the words of The Reverend Gavin Ashenden when he was recently
asked about the rising issue of transgenderism now seen taking place
in primary schools across Great Britain.
He noted that many people ask what is the big deal.
So what if a girl of 8 decides she shall be a boy…?
What is the big deal if a 6 year old boy decides he wants to be a girl?

Rev Ashenden quickly warns us that the big deal is when the human imagination
begins to be distorted.
When we create a world based on our narcissism and idolatry of self
we challenge what God has given us…challenging the Godly as being utterly wrong.
We are telling the God of all creation that what He created was a mistake and wrong.

So as we are left balancing the chasm of time,
keeping one foot in the past with one foot in the future,
wondering what the past has to do with the now, Rydell reminds us that
those who wish to dominate do so by convincing others what it is they are to
both think and believe to be truth….

But we must always remember from whence comes our Truth….

“The danger of taking a one-sided perspective on the Nazi’s relationship to
knowledge is that it risks obscuring something even more dangerous:
The desire of totalitarian ideology to rule not only over people but also their
thoughts.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory,
are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

Hygee

“Religion died, from various diseases, and humanity died with it.
Or perhaps it is truer to say that humanity died of great possessions,
of modern development, of the pace of modern life and so on –
and religion died as humanity succumbed.”

Alfred Delp

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(Sometimes all we need is just a sliver of Hope…
Deer Lake, Watercolor Resort, Julie Cook / 2016)

There I stood in one of the many long snaking lines at the grocery store early this afternoon.
I don’t care where you are, be it grocery store, the post office or a local fast food joint,
this time of year there will be long snaky lines.
That’s not mentioning the large discount stores, department stores or home improvement
centers where “snaking lines” pales in describing the madness currently taking place
at those spots…
but I digress….

As I made my way to the register and conveyor counter waiting to unload my cart,
only to have my items rung up, paid for, bagged and reloaded into my cart,
I noticed the array of magazines lining the shelves.
From tabloid to self help, from recipes to horoscopes….

There in all her blazing glory was an ever grinning Oprah appearing to levitate over
the Grand Canyon happily proclaiming that one and all should be living their grandest
life possible…as in living it oh so grandly and oh so largely.

“Easy for Oprah to proclaim” I hear my brain grousing.

I could live grand while levitating over the grand canyon rather than standing in
a long snaky, too close to Christmas line waiting to buy kleenex and chicken
if I had a boat load of cash, an entourage of folks
waiting with bated breath to do my bidding
all the while having no where to be or nothing particularly world altering to do.

Once at home, with said chicken and kleenex unloaded for the 3rd time today….
I sat down at the table in order to catch up on a few things.
Like considering addressing the few Christmas cards I just had to gather…
as in the few cards, according to my husband, that are essential that I send out….

With my small world derailing these days, Christmas and its more secular hoopla is
being held to a bare minimum…don’t ask where the tree is yet…I might get around to it.
As there is simply not enough time, energy, me nor joy lurking in my crumbling world.

My eyes wandered to an interesting little news article as I fought off the impending chore…

After reading the interesting little article I decided
I must be living under a rock.

Now mind you, I really don’t mind living under a rock…
as there is often a good bit of peace and solitude under said rock.

It’s when I read about some latest craze or word or trend that seems to have
“social media” or the internet, or the entire world for that matter all ablaze…
that I know I’m contently under my rock.

I really don’t miss hearing about or seeing those things that set popular culture on fire.
Those latest brouhahas in movements, foods, pastimes, clothing, music…
In fact I rather relish being left out of the hype.

Now I suppose that’s an age thing as there was probably a time I would have “died”
had I not been riding the latest band wagon….

So it seems there is this word…
“hygge”

It’s a Danish word pronounced either hyue-gar, or hoog-jar or hoo gah
maybe it depends on where in the country of Denmark you are from…
kind of like a regional dialect sort of thing.

Anywhoo, hygge is a word, or better yet, a state of mind,
that just so happens to be taking the UK by storm…
and it is predicted that very shortly that the very same world altering word
and blissful state of mind, will wildly descend upon life here in the States.

It is a word that describes the approaching, or perhaps better yet, the attacking of life
with a mindset of all things positive…
all the while as one embraces the enjoyment of everyday life experiences.

Hummmm…..a rather oddly familiar concept

Seems that the world altering events of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump has folks
all across this globe in a peculiar dither..
as in the masses are in a state of ‘inability’…a feeding frenzy of inability…
as in an inability to function, to embrace life, or to even appreciate life…
let alone finding the strength to simply enjoy living.

And leave it to the Danes, those same northern folks who have been voted time and time again
by all things travel to be the happiest folks on the planet,
to perfect that very state of happiness into a new global phenomenon….
while all the other poor souls who are still languishing in the events of the past year,
seek some sort of solace from their woes.

Enter hygge…

Yet…
Despite this latest feel-good phenom making the most of the empty cultural voids…
this latest and desperately sought after placebo for an ailing populace…
is actually a state of mind that’s been around for quite some time…

Or perhaps, better yet, it’s really more of a command as to how one should actually live…

And as for me…
it is a very timely reminder….
that despite my overwhelmingly imploding small world…
I have long known the secret to a contented life that goes far beyond the
limited understanding of this oh so jaded and self centered world…

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.
His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

And that my friends is God, in Christ Jesus, our very own hygge….

This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

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

Never abandoned

“Blessed are the forgetful,
for they get the better even of their blunders.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader,
that man can endure all things,
for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us.
He is a true friend.

Saint Teresa of Avila

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(emerging daffodils/ Julie Cook / 2016)

Just when the old, grey, cold blanket of winter had grown too stifling and heavy…
Just when you thought all joy and enthusiasm had fled…
Just as everyone and everything has moved against you…
Just as you fall, fearing that you’re down for the final count…

God sends a little reminder that He’s still very much present…as in He will never allow you to fall nor will He ever leave you alone nor abandon you for any reason…

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 31:6

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****the emerging bulbs planted back early Fall and very quickly forgotten…until now…