RUN!!!!!!!

“I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government
from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

Thomas Jefferson


(truck transporting poor chickens to the processing plant / Julie Cook / 2017)

My husband and I were driving down a divided four lane state road, linking our town
with another town, when we came upon this “chicken” truck.
And yes, I did happen to have my camera.

As I snapped a picture, my husband asked why I took the picture.
Because I just can’t stand seeing this” came my response.

Now I make no excuses, I am a true meat and potatoes girl—I always have been.
I love to cook, grill, sauté, fry and bake…. you name it…
and meat usually plays a predominate role in my culinary repertoire.
As I can roast a turkey, chicken or prime rib like nobody’s business….

But….

Whenever I come across a ‘chicken truck’—-I suddenly want to be a vegetarian.

I say that…. but yet according to the Georgia Poultry Federation…
the poultry business is the largest segment of Georgia’s agriculture business.
It accounts for 38 billion dollars of Georgia’s annual economy.
Georgia, along with Arkansas and Alabama, are the top three broiler producers in the nation.
Meaning that when you stop for that chicken sandwich those grammatically
incorrect cows would like for you too eat or when you order a bucket of that
finger licking good fried chicken, chances are the chicken came from Georgia.

And as much as I am a meat and potatoes girl, I am also very much a person who
loves animals….all animals…a person who can’t stand to see nary a one hurt
or be mistreated in any sort of fashion.

So I can honestly tell you that my husband was most grateful that there
wasn’t a red light along that state roadway, stopping that chicken truck
with us behind it…..
because he knows I would have jumped out of our vehicle, running as fast I could
toward that chicken truck, unlatching each and every cage while hollering at the
top of my lungs for each and every last chicken to in turn RUN…..
RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN!!!!!
RUN FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.
But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather,
serve one another humbly in love.

Galatians 5:13

crying in need


(baby goat pic found on the web)

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

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

Anywhooo back to our tale….

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

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

Was that a sheep?????

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

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

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

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhh

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

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhh

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

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh

We both are standing still as statues, listening….

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh

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

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh

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

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh

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

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhh

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

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

Baaaaaaaaaahhhhh

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

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

Inside my car I can still hear the cries….

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

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

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

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

Inquisitive?

Absolutely…
but this draw was something much more than mere curiosity.

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

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

Baaaaaaaaaaahhhhh

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

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

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

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

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

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


(little lamb found on the web)

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

Psalm 18:6

degree of separation

“We cannot live only for ourselves.
A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men;
and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes,
and they come back to us as effects.”

Herman Melville


(the fist pickings from the 3 container tomato plants / Julie Cook / 2017)

It has been said that the citizens of planet earth are separated, one from another,
by a mere 6 degrees…
or what some researches refer to as “the small world phenomenon”

“If you just take a look at the numbers,
the six degrees of separation idea seems pretty plausible.
Assuming everyone knows at least 44 people,
and that each of those people knows an entirely new 44 people, and so on,
the maths shows that in just six steps everyone could be connected
to 44^6, or 7.26 billion people—more than are alive on Earth today.”

(excerpt from an article by Fiona McDonald for Science Alert / sciencealert.com)

full article link here:
http://www.sciencealert.com/are-we-all-really-connected-by-just-six-degrees-of-separation

We’ve seen the notion of this “phenomena”,
and it’s original test of theory dating back to the 1960’s…
as it has morphed over the years into a movie, a college drinking game and even to a
broadway play…as it appears that the notion that we are all so closely connected,
seems to hold a deep fascination with the citizens of the globe.

And yet we wonder as to the responsibility that might come with such a
close connection of kinship…..

The idea that we actually know one another by some interwoven intertwined web of
acquaintances apparently holds us captivated.
The notion that we are each one connected soul, connected to other souls,
souls of which we hold on to tightly in our own little circle of souls,
is seen as eerily soothing.
Just one big happy globally dysfunctional family.

And yet the irony found in our desire for unity is that we also clammer for separation.
We want everything about our lives compartmentalized…separated….
while at the same time we painstakingly seek a global connectivity while also
demanding equality for all and a toleration of every
imaginable choice out there…
except for those who choose the Omnipotent.

So our connectivity and toleration and inclusiveness is actually limited despite
the lies we continue telling ourselves to the contrary.

We vie to find our connectedness…one to another…
while at the same time we vehemently fight to sever our, and everyone else’s,
ties to the Creator…

We fight tooth and nail to separate Him from every aspect of our very
independent secular lives..
While at the same time patting ourselves on our backs for an overt
pride found in the general connectivity and the false unity we think we’ve created…
For we claim inclusiveness in our broad reaching connectivity while at the same time
demanding that any notion of a connection to God be erased from thought.

This fickleness of ours will indeed be our undoing….
for we cannot be connected to everything and everyone while pretending
to disconnect our being, our soul, our own, our all from the very One
who knitted us in our mother’s womb….

For we cannot run nor hide from His knowledge and omnipotent presence,
no matter how far we go or how hard we try….
and until we are able to see and understand and acknowledge that He is a part
of even the very air we breathe,
then we will simply continue this petty exertion of our energies while
puffing up and inflating our trite egos of self,
in this endless ongoing emptiness we find so very fascinating and captivating….

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For thou didst form my inward parts,
thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Psalm 139:7-13

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

let’s make it a true daily double Alex…

images

The other evening, while I was at the sink doing the dishes, following the National News,
Jeopardy was next up on TV.

Halfway listening, as the water ran and the dishes clanged in the sink,
I heard one of the contestants asking for a question in one of day’s categories…
It was the hidden daily double.

You know, those hidden opportunites where the contestant is offered the choice of
wagering their entire accrued winning total…
all in hopes of answering the question correctly…
with the chance of either doubling their winnings,
or, should they choose to play conservative, at least adding slightly…

“Let’s make it a true daily double Alex”….

This is where the audience will often gasp while Alex is heard to sardonically quip “helllloooo”

I don’t remember the particular question, nor the amount for which the contestant was now playing…
but I remember hearing the contestant stating what I thought to be the correct answer.

Alex however, the ever audacious, all knowing host, quickly corrected her pronunciation
informing her that her answer was incorrect due to the fact that
she did not correctly pronounce the word—-

But the thing is Alex knew,
as I knew,
that she knew…
the answer…

She just pronounced it incorrectly.
And in Jeopardy, pronunciation is key… down to each vowel, consonant and syllable.

And as a native southerner….accents can play the devil in pronunciation….just saying…

So the contestant lost it all…
her entire show’s winnings….
and was now forced to play catch up…
working her way from behind back into the running….

Odds were not in her favor…

So the question for us all is….

Are we gamblers in life or are we the play it safe kind of person?

Would we be feeling confident, perhaps even daring, by making things a true daily double…

or…

would we play it safe, holding onto what we had by wagering only a nominal amount,
if we even wagered at all…??

You may claim to be the latter of the two—always playing it safe…
But do you really?
And to what extent….?

We’ve all read the stories…
the one about Peter…
that lovable yet often mindless disciple who took to the notion of speaking first
and thinking later…
The one who lead more with his heart and often less with his head…
Impulsive perhaps
Full of emotion
and most likely a true daily double kind of guy…

Remember it was Peter who was charged with the keys to Heaven…

However when the going got rough and things went bad,
really bad for the Carpenter and then his followers,
Peter, when confronted with his association and knowledge of the rebel rousing Carpenter…
as he was no doubt regretting that whole daily double attitude…
Peter pled the 5th.

He knew him not…

Three times he took the 5th…
He knew him not….

And like Peter, we are currently finding ourselves, this very day and time,
faced with the same sort of accusations…

Aren’t you one of them?

Don’t you know Him?

Are you not one of His followers?

They ask this when prayer is no longer allowed in public and you keep silent.

They ask this when the faithful are told that they can’t use or display a cross,
have a public Christmas tree or manager on display, use the word Christmas or even
read a bible publicly…while you remain silent.

They ask this when your fellow brothers and sisters, around the world,
are tortured and murdered for their faith in Jesus Christ,
the very Carpenter Peter once tried to deny…
and you choose to remain silent…because that is over there…
and you are over here…
In the home of the free and brave….

You play it safe, you play it conservative…
You dare not play the daily double because then they will know that you are “one of them”
and there will be nowhere to run, nowhere to hide…like Peter…

So maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about…
those missed pronunciations,
those missed spellings,
those overt politically correct stances,
the overt politeness
the falsehoods that we are continually fed
the denials we face daily over our belief…

It was later, when it truly mattered, when Peter,
who when faced with his own martyrdom opted for the true daily double…
by announcing to Nero and the crowd…

“Yes, I knew Him”

“Yes I know Him”

“And yes, I am one of them…one of His…”

…”And I have made this life a true daily double for His sake,
your sake and the sake of the salvation for the world to come….

Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the
Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Acts 28:31

Heart of the matter

God our Father has seen fit to grant us, in the heart of his Son, “infinite treasures of love,” mercy and affection. If we want to find evidence that God loves us — that he not only listens to our prayers but anticipates them — we need only follow the same line of thought as St Paul: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things in him?” (Rom 8:32)
(excerpt from a homily given by St Josemaria Escriva June 17, 1966)

DSC00811
(Calla Lilly / Julie Cook / 2015)

Imagine this is your last week, as you know it, on earth.
Your death has been set.
There is no maybe that it happens, no maybe it doesn’t.
No 50 / 50 chance.
It’s set in stone.
The end of the week.
No getting around it, it’s going to happen, like it or not.

It is not a death of natural causes or illness.
It is not set to be some tragic accident.
It is not a death by lethal injection, electrocution, firing square, poison, hanging,
nothing so orderly and deemed oddly humane and / or neat.
No, your death is not to be easy.
It’s going to be horrific actually.
Slow
Agonizing
Painful. . .

And it comes when all those whom you love have run and hid, with some even turning their back.
Alone, deserted, abandoned.
There is no stopping it
avoiding it
averting it
altering it
moving it
preventing it
hiding from it. . .
It’s coming.
At the end of the week.

Armed with the sickly stalk reality of your demise.
Given it to be brutal, awful, horrible. . .
What do you do?
Do you run?
Do you hide?
Do you beg?
Do you plead?
Do you find another to take your place?
. . .Another to take your place. . .
Ahhhh. . .
A novel idea.
A substitue!

Some hapless sucker who you can perhaps pay off, talk your way around,
promise or lie to that it won’t be so bad.
You’ll tell them they have little if anything to lose, but you on the other hand,
you have too much to lose. . .
You’re too important.
You can’t die.
You have things to do.
They, well, it’s pretty obvious they have nothing.
Nothing to lose. . .just their seemingly insignificant little life.
and you, well you can keep your hide safe for yet another day

However imagine that something odd begins to takes place,
You discover that you don’t have to actually persuade this person.
You don’t have to beg
There is no pleading
No cajoling
No lying
No false promises
No bribing
No payoff

They want nothing from you.
They don’t want your phony promises
Your money
your lies
your bravado
your falsehoods

There’s no having to talk them into this
No sugarcoating the horrible details.
“Sure” they say, they’ll do it.
Just like that. . .”sure, for you, I’ll do it, gladly”
Gladly?
Huh?
Are they crazy you wonder.
Are they daft?

And then you find yourself questioning. . .
You question
their motive
their motivation
their sanity. . .
This seems too easy you think
Why so agreeable?
so willing?
so stupid?

Maybe you’re starting to feel guilty
A bit bad that you’re setting up an innocent man up for something that is meant for you?
Feeling a tad badly that you’re getting off so easily
Getting away with another’s man’s death, another man’s murder, another man’s execution. . .
The one that was meant for you.
Who’ll miss this fellow?
All that matters is that you’ll escape
You’ll walk free
The horrible, painful ordeal will not be yours to contend with.
Walk away, just walk away, and don’t look back. . .

Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
Hebrew 7:27

Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Hebrews 9:26

The sting of Spring

“A work of arte; and yet no arte of man,
Can worke, this worke, these little creatures can”
– Geffrey Whitney, 1586

DSCN4617
(a Carpenter bee who has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2014)

DSCN4748
(a pen and pencil drawing of a Xylocopa Virginica (carpenter bee) / Julie Cook / 2000)

When I was in high school, many many years ago, I ran track both my 9th and 10th grade years. I was never really fast nor very good but there was just something about it that held me in place for those two pivotal teenage years. Maybe it was my glue during the turbulent life of adolescents. Maybe it was a good outlet for the often troublesome ooze of a teenage girl. A mishmash of emotions, hormones and a fertile battle ground of little girl, tomboy and young lady all colliding as one. In other words, a delightful distraction and master consumer of energy and time.

If you’ve ever seen me in person you know that I am a relatively short individual. What was once 5’4.5″ is now sadly 5’3″–ode to age and osteopenia, couple that with a medium build. No svelte, long legged gazelle here, maybe more like a hearty soccer player. But one look would pretty much tell you that I was not built to be a track star let alone a long jump queen. Yet it was indeed the long jump which held my oh so keen interest.

My short little legs, with the thighs of which I so fondly refer to as God having given me tree trunks instead of thighs, were not exactly rockets which could or would propel one up and over the length of a sand pit.
I, however, was not to be deterred.

One day, before practice our coach, who happened the be the coach of the boy’s team, as I was a pre Title IX athlete–(most everything we did was with the boy’s team—from lifting weights—this sending my mother into orbit as this too was pre knowledge that it was perfectly fine for girls, feminine girls,to lift weights without turning them into a bulky testosterone filled muscle mass or some East Russian weight lifter (no offense to East Russian weight lifters) —On this particular afternoon our coach offered both teams a little motivational encouragement.

He told us the story of the bumblebee.

Supposedly it is aerodynamically improbable (he used the word impossible) for a bumblebee to fly. It seems that because of the size and weight of their bodies, along with the size, the shape and the number of beats per wing makes the concept of flight, for the lowly bumblebee, not very practical. Simply put, they are too fat, too round, too heavy along with too small of a wing, of which do not flap fast enough to lift them, keeping their rotund frame aloft–let alone fly.

But fly they do.

I took this concept to heart. I also decided that I would workout each day with the boys–the two senior boys who long jumped and triple jumped. If they jumped the boxes, I jumped the boxes. If they skipped around the track doing high leg lifts, I did the same goofy leg lifts. I’d stand at the end of the runway, having marked, counted and numbered my steps, sprinting forward, looking upward, praying my foot planted perfectly at the tip of the white jump off board and soar, hopefully, upward and outward.

Now I never broke any records or racked up a room full of trophies but I did beat out the svelte gazelle who was our girl’s team top long jumper. I did come in 2nd place at Region. And I felt as if I had accomplished something that I really never should have accomplished. . .as I was not, am not, built to soar or fly.

The lesson here is not whether it is scientifically feasible that bumblebees can or cannot fly. Nor is this the place to discuss the difference between bumblebees and their obnoxious cousins the carpenter bees— better known as the wood bee—as in eat any and all exposed wood be it a deck, rocking chair or house eve. . . digressing. . .
This is, more accurately, a lesson in believing in the improbable, the unlikely, the impossible.
This is a story about reaching beyond the expected, about never settling for the predicted, and for believing that there is always a way to do what you never thought you could do or were told you couldn’t do–despite of or in spite of any and all obstacles or limitations.

Yes, there will be have to be work. . .lots of sweat, painful effort, long tiring hours, sacrifice of self–but in the end. . . medals, trophies and records aside. . .it will be you and you alone who will know the sweet satisfaction of accomplishment—because you shouldn’t or couldn’t, but in the end, you did. . .

We all can soar.

DSCN4614
(the carpenter bee who has seen better days trying to fly away, not very successful / Julie Cook / 2014)

DSCN4745
(pen and pencil drawing Megabombus Pennsylvanicus (bumblebee) / Julie Cook / 2000)

Do the impossible

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
St. Francis of Assisi
CIMG0526

This photograph is an image of one of the beautiful Umbrian valleys surrounding the peaceful hill town of Assisi. The view of this sweeping valley is one that Francesco Bernardone, later known simply as St. Francis, gazed upon most assuredly, often. There is indeed a serenity to this area of Italy, as it issues, beckoning and inviting, a whisper that seductively yet warmly calls out to anyone who is restless of spirit.

I imagine that a young Francesco often retreated to these hills, forlorn and heavy of heart, as he wrestled within himself….the young troubadour and dandy whose days and nights were idly filled with shallow friends and raucous wanton carousing…and yet, all the while inwardly, Francesco was so very heavy with conflicting emotions. A crisis of self. A crossroads with soon to be explosive results.

What better place to contemplate ones life.

The air heavy with the scent of jasmine, the wind gently stirring the grasses covering the endless hillsides as the sun radiantly sparkles in a deep Giotto blue sky. I imagine our young Francesco laying on his back nestled in the swaying grass, arms folded behind his head, gazing skyward wondering why he was so unhappy. Fretful, unsettled, burdened.

When God calls, there is no stopping what then follows… we can never go back and we can never be the same. We may run as hard and as fast as we can in the opposite direction. We run out of fear and even out of anger. We fight the call by denying His very existence–we go to the brink of the abyss, but He will stand fast…waiting.

The conflict within will come to a crashing crescendo. The chaos colliding with the Divine. The old self must die giving way to a new birth of a new self. That is the miracle. Not so much the great and grand works we then are to accomplish but rather that we are transformed and reborn–that we are changed forever.

Saul had his road to Damascus. He was a mercenary answering really to no one but himself. He was paid to uncover and route out the new rebellious lot of the followers of the crucified man from Nazareth. Much like a modern day hit man or assassin. He went about his paid commission with steely and unemotional precision. The job paid well and he actually sadistically enjoyed it.

Sometimes our hearts are so cold and blind that our eyes must be blinded in order to get our attention. Extreme living often requires extreme turn abouts. It matters not how hard we may live, how bad, how destructive we wish to be, when the call comes, as it most likely will, we will be purged.

Are you restless of spirit, are you troubled…or are you seemingly living the perfect life, happy and supposedly content, yet there is just something unsettled deep within? Perhaps you must seek the solitude of self in order to determine the cause of the wrinkles of heart. Is God calling, beckoning…is there greatness in you that even you yourself deny?

We all have our time contemplating our existence, our roads to Damascus—the question remains… how long will we travel and contemplate before we finally recognize the One who is calling? How long will it take until we are ready to do the job we are called to do by the One who knows that we are the only one who can do this one particular chore….

We may run, but we cannot hide….When He calls, there will be no turning back…..Why is it then that you are still running so very fast so very far away…..He will stand fast, He will wait—you are needed to do the impossible.