safety

Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct.
Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates.

Alexander Hamilton


(a squadron of brown pelicans skirt the surf / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

As the birds of similar feathers tend to flock together…
dare we assume that the perception of safety is therefore found in numbers?

Venturing even a bit further…
it appears we often equate this said numerical safety with a perceived
sense of security.

As we gather likeminded, following blindly,
snuggled warm within the bosom of both kith and kin…
we surge en masse, with a liberating notion of freedom,
found only in the security of our assumptions.

While we see those wrapped within their holy writ…
brandishing a label oft worn so comfortably and smugly…
with that label acting as a false badge of complacency.

Remember ye oh so comfortable ones,
you who move to the sounds of contrived safety…
The command was to go…
Venturing forth boldly in the freedom found only in the one pure Truth…

To offer….
To speak
To share
To spread
To rejoice
To revel
To embrace
To Love

When and where there is no guarantee of welcome…
nor of acceptance
or of security
or of safety
or of success

Not going to the confines of the people and places where that which is safe and secure..
Not to where open arms are found holding tightly to the covey of likeminded numbers…
Not to the places that are necessarily across treacherous seas nor over impassable mountains…
but rather going to those places merely across the street or even across the room.

Go, and go most oft alone,
where there is neither promise of complacent security nor safety…
Go where there may not be found a warm embrace or a welcomed chair…
But rather go to Him and Him alone….

For it is only in Him that your true rest will be finally found…
Only in Him will there be eternal safety and security…
No falsehoods,
no breeches in the walls,
no holes in the nets….

For in Him, and Him alone, is your portion and your all.
Found only in the number of One…

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,
but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Mark 16:15-16

Palm Sunday and the Copts

“In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt,
and a pillar to the LORD at its border.

Isaiah 19:19


(a Coptic Cross…it reads, Jesus Christ, the son of God)

While Christians gathered around the world to pray, worship and celebrate the
beginning of the most revered and holiest season’s of the Church’s calendar,
two Coptic Churches and their members in Egypt were attacked.

Despite being outfitted with metal detectors, two suicide bombers joined the Palm Sunday
worshipers detonating their explosive packs near the altars of the two crowded churches.
In their wake two holy and sacred places were transformed into grisly crime scenes comprised
of splintered woods, crumbled stone, blood and body parts while lives and families were
transformed forever.

Coptic Christianity is regarded as the oldest sect of the Christian Church.
It is a church that was established by the apostle and evangelist St Mark in Egypt during the
reign of the Roman emperor Nero in the 1st century.

Egypt and the Coptic Church is also home to the inception of Christian monasticism.
History notes that it was in Egypt that both the Desert Fathers and later, the Desert Mothers,
sought the solitude of the desert to pray and in turn build monasteries that have been
in continuous operation for the past 1900 years.

And since 2010, the Islamic State has made the life of Coptic Christians a
living nightmare.

The latest two murderous attacks taking place yesterday during Palm Sunday.
Egypt’s Copts, who have suffered repeated deadly jihadist attacks,
say they feel abandoned and discriminated against by the authorities in the
predominantly Muslim country.

But despite their fears, the Christians of Tanta said they are determined to defend
their faith.

“We’re Christian and we will stay Christian,” one woman said in a defiant tone.
AFP News

As we solemnly enter this holiest of weeks of our Christian faith,
may those of us who are privileged to worship openly and free,
be mindful of our brothers and sisters across the globe who continue to worship
under the black cloud of persecution and terrorism.

Let us pray for the victims, the wounded and the collective Christian families of these two
Egyptian churches.
Knowing that what we take for granted, that of our freedom to worship in relative
safety and security, is not the standard for many worshipers around this fractured world.
May we stand in solidarity as the family of Believers as we continue to
proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Risen Lord…

Alleluia….

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.

Isaiah 61:1-3

Seeking shelter

If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter
of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal
likewise with their fellow men.

Francis of Assisi


(spicebrush butterfly seeking a safe perch / Julie Cook / 2017)

I was leaning over, pulling up a few weeds out of the freshly strewn pine straw bed,
when I caught a bit of movement on a freshly trimmed bush.

A butterfly sat with fluttering wings wide open…not in the sun, but rather in the shadows.
It’s still a bit chilly in the mornings and early evenings here…however those first
hardy souls of the butterfly world are beginning to make their seasonal appearance.

I know that butterflies must sun themselves, warming up their muscles.
If the temps dip into the 40’s, butterflies can’t even move let alone fly.

I watched this wee one flitter from the shelter and shade of the shrubbery,
heading happily outward into the sun, only to lite upon the bay laurel tree.

The butterfly struggled on the slick laurel leaves to get traction.
Vainly attempting to climb up the leaves, in order to reach a sunnier spot in which to bask
in the beauty of the day, the butterfly kept slipping back down to the underside of the leaf,
while all the little fragile black legs worked furiously…
as my little friend scrambled to gain a foothold upward.

Yesterday we had tornados.
20 touched down throughout the state with one of those touchdowns being in my county.
It was nothing like our neighbors to the west in Louisiana,
but destructive none the less.

Property was damaged, cars crushed, college housing lost windows,
and even one of the local fire stations had it’s roof lifted of and taken away…
while a side wall then gave way….

Thankfully no one was hurt and no lives lost.

Today is a far cry from yesterday…
Today is one of those Chamber of Commerce type of days.
Warm, brilliant blue sky, white puffy clouds—
a true welcome mat coaxing one and all to venture out of doors.
Tomorrow however is to be like yesterday…
storm ridden and supposedly worse then we saw Monday.

Such is life in the Spring in the South…
beautifully inviting one minute, then hell on earth the next…
Sending both man and beast seeking shelter….

So for today as the butterfly and I currently enjoy wandering about a bit outside,
free from the confines of indoors or shelter…
I do so with knowledge that we both will most likely be seeking a safe haven
at some point tomorrow…

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 91

heed thy words

img_0891
(the front window pane smashed)

The majority of the posts I write are written the day before they are posted.
Yesterday and the day before that were no exception.

Witnessing the surreal angst raging across this nation, Saint Velimirovich’s quote
seemed to best capture the correct Christian response…

“the world is a sick man whom sin has made sick…

as this pious cleric reminds us that…

“sin is the sickness and to scorn sinners is to scorn the sick.”

And therefore a healer is needed and we are to pray for the sinner…

Little did I realize how much those words were to resonate in
my own heart on a very personal level….

Saturday night we had been out to eat with friends…
It was just before midnight when we finally climbed into bed, ready to call it a day…
that the phone rang.

Calls in the night are never good.

It was the security monitoring system alerting us that the alarm at my husband’s store was going off.
Quickly dressing we raced to town hoping this was just some sort of false alarm.
Pulling into the shopping center we were met by the Georgia State Patrol and 4 Carrollton Police vehicles…it was no false alarm.

Glass littered the sidewalk like a million sparkling diamonds, scattering out into the parking lot…
this was the ominous welcome mat for what we would find inside.

img_0888
(the front corner that was smashed and the Pandora case…I am not showing the rest of
the damage in the store…that of the the broken cases as the investigation is on going)

I can’t describe the sicking feeling that grips one’s gut when walking upon
and seeing an extended part of yourself shattered and violated…
A flock of shadows eerily wandered in the fractured light with flashlights in hand,
searching for any information as a carpet of broken glass crunched underfoot.
The police surmised it all took place within 20 seconds.
Twenty seconds and thousands of dollars later…..

My husband’s father had returned home after spending fours years in Europe fighting
in a world war.
With no training or connections and little money in hand,
he opened a small town jewelry store with a legacy now 70 years old.

My husband took up the torch 40 years ago.
His store, his business, is all he has ever known.
He’s poured his entire existence into this small-town business with a
sense of selflessness rarely seen in today’s business market.
His integrity, diligence and sheer honesty has been the greatest example of
living and working that he could ever offer to our son.

Seeing a portion of this self-effacing work ethic of the man I’ve been fortunate to
share the last 34 years with…
broken and scattered along the sidewalk and parking lot late on a stormy Saturday night,
left a part of my own heart shattered and mixed within the glass.

Over the past several weeks,
I’ve sat perplexed as I’ve watched a swarth of this country act disgracefully and unbecomingly.
I’ve seen protesters marching, burning, and smashing store fronts.
Women enjoying profane laced rants.
Young people with masked faces torching that which is not theirs.
Vandalism for the sake of vandalism.
while hate percolates up to the surface…
As a percentage of this country decides every time we have transition and change,
it is a rallying cry for destruction.

There has been a call to destroy.
To destroy that which belongs to someone else…
that which was sweated over to create,
that which was labored over to build
of that which has witnessed the loss of sleep and great sacrifice…
coupled with the tender nurturing while praying as it all ebbed, flowed and growed…
pouring out a life to and for…
While others now selfishly and hatefully decide,
in the blink of an eye,
that none of that matters.

I cannot abide by those who steal or blatantly vandalize.
I do not make excuses that such individuals are disenfranchised, impoverished,
or uneducated…
that such individual’s behavior is due to the fact that they have not
benefited as others have…
so therefore such behavior is not to be seen as wrong…
just merely misunderstood.

Such is the liberal mantra echoed by those who make excuses for those who knowingly
choose to do wrong.

There are no excuses for choosing to do wrong.

Rich or poor
Educated or illiterate
have or have not
black or white
brown or yellow
Believer or not…

Wrong is wrong…
and it matters not your position in life nor
of your opportunities or lack there of…

So now I am finding myself hearing the same words of St Velimirovich that I typed
and shared yesterday…
“Make your heart prayerful, together with your soul and your mind,…
feel pity and compassion for every creature…
Do not scorn sinners, but pray for them…”

And so now…
I pray…
I pray for sinners as I pray for myself…
Sinners who have decided to turn their sins of selfish choices which
have been pointed in my direction…
I am called to pray for sinners to turn their hearts and their ways just
as I am to pray for my own ability to be able to forgive…

Whoever is of God hears the words of God.
The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

John 8:47

Be my refuge

“Where does your security lie? Is God your refuge, your hiding place,
your stronghold, your shepherd, your counselor, your friend, your redeemer,
your saviour, your guide? If He is, you don’t need to search any further for security.”

Elisabeth Elliot

“Let all your thoughts be with the Most High, and direct your humble prayers unceasingly to Christ.
If you cannot contemplate high and heavenly things, take refuge in the Passion of Christ,
and love to dwell within His Sacred Wounds.
For if you devoutly seek the Wounds of Jesus and the precious marks of His Passion,
you will find great strength in all troubles.”

Thomas à Kempis

dscn1125
(view behind Ross Castle, Killarney National Park, Co Kerry, Ireland, Julie Cook/ 2015)

In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge;
Let me never be ashamed.

In Your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
Incline Your ear to me and save me.

Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come;
You have given commandment to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.

Rescue me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked,
Out of the grasp of the wrongdoer and ruthless man,
For You are my hope;

O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth.
By You I have been sustained from my birth;
You are He who took me from my mother’s womb;
My praise is continually of You.

I have become a marvel to many,
For You are my strong refuge.

My mouth is filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all day long.

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
Do not forsake me when my strength fails.

Psalm 71:1-9

crag

“Benedicto:
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you — beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”

Edward Abbey

DSCN3521
(Little River Canyon State Park, Alabama / Julie Cook / 2016)

You have sustained me in the shelter of Your hiding place…
that place set off from all that is…
That secret place where You alone in silence wait….
Waiting for my return…

But the Lord has become my fortress,
and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.

Psalm 94:22

Beware the gators

“Because we focused on the snake, we missed the scorpion”
Egyptian Proverb

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(image borrowed from web of a gator crossing an interstate near Naples, FL)

Maybe you’ve heard about them…
or
maybe you haven’t…

Interstate alligators…

And no, I’m not talking about actual alligators crossing the road as in the image above…
Rather I’m talking about something that is equally as dangerous and equally as deadly…
The only caveat is that it’s just not a living creature.

So now that your interest is piqued and you understand that we are not discussing reptiles…
I will explain what exactly an interstate alligator is all about.

An interstate alligator is the dubious moniker for the remnants of the shredded tires from tractor trailer trucks.

shredded_tire_roadside

More times than not, those big rigs, which are driving on very worn tires, will lose the most worn tires off their rigs to the rigors of constant wear and tear…all while driving on car infested roadways.
As they race up and down the highways, freeways and interstates across this grand country of ours, these worn steel belted tires will basically begin to disintegrate and shred while the truck is clocking 70 to 80 mph.

semi-tire-blowout
(image courtesy Real Truck Driver Blog)

Add to that the heat of summer, as the pavement reaches deadly hot temperatures…
With worn tires riding along an inferno of cement and asphalt, we’ve all got troubles!

Imagine huge chunks of tire being slung off a spinning rim, most often unbeknownst to the driver, as the driver isn’t about to be slowing down or moving over to the far right lane in order to exit or move to the emergency lane in order to stop…

Next imagine being the cars behind and beside these big truck as the tire is shredding.

Needless to say there have been many a damaged vehicle as there have been many a fatality as a result of these shredding tires.

The alligator part comes into play when the remnants of these tires are left where they fly then fall—that being the middle of lanes, along the shoulder of the road…just anywhere they finally lose the momentum of flight—as they now lay in wait, lurking and waiting for those poor unsuspecting drivers who are on top of them before being able to slow down or swerve safely out of the way while attempting not to ram into a fellow driver…

Today’s journey to Atlanta, on its infamous perimeter, was like navigating a backwater bayou at full speed while trying to dodge and miss a plethora of both big and small gators all before it being too late before an impending collision.

Cars were slamming on their brakes, erratically changing lanes, hoping the cars beside and behind could get stopped in time.

Holding on for dear life as I made my way through the cement minefield,
I smelled it before I saw it as the air was rife with the acrid smell of burning rubber.
Dodging debris big and small, I soon road past the culprit. A big rig’s second to the back tire was disintegrating faster than he could move over and slow down.
Tire was slinging left and right as cars did their darnedest to dodge the deadly shrapnel.

As I miraculously made my way past the truck and the sea of tire parts without being hit, without running over anything and without being hit by my fellow dodging drivers, I was struck (not literally thank God) by the sheer magnitude of how things can change in one’s life from good to disastrous in literally the blink of an eye.
A ‘now you don’t see it, yet now you suddenly do’ sort of life’s scenario..

Yet we don’t much like thinking of life in that regard.

We don’t like to dwell on the possible and potential negatives of life…
those ‘could be’s’ or those ‘what if’s’ in life…
but what of the sudden and sheer catastrophic…??

We don’t want to live life constantly fretting and worrying.

Yet we do need to always be ready…
Ready for those very instantaneous what if’s.

As in…what if I’m taken out by this interstate monster right here, right now—am I ready for that?
Am I ready if my life is snuffed out just like that?

There’s no time to think,
No time to suddenly and quickly introduce yourself to a God you’ve just kind of always kept in the back of your head…
Kind of like a Santa Claus—
calling on Him in a pinch or when you really need or want something….

This isn’t like the “oh please God don’t let me get caught by that red light again” sort of thing…
Rather this is…there’s a big black chunk of rubber and steal, that’s just come up out of nowhere, hurdling through both time and space with lightning speed right for your windshield and face sort of thing, leaving you nowhere to turn, nowhere to run, leaving you nowhere to duck and cover….

Your relationship with God cannot wait.
It’s that dire, that urgent.

Not because you need to be saved from flying projectiles or hungry debris alligators who are lurking and waiting for when you lest expect it…but because time will not always afford you the luxury of waiting, pondering and deciding, if you want your soul to be lost or to be found…

There is true comfort in knowing that no matter what happens in this life…no matter the dangerous and deadly perils that await us…the catastrophes, the accidents, the random horrible things …
that in and through it all…God is yours and you are His…forever and ever…Amen!!

May you travel in safety my friends…

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9