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

Friday the 13th, it’s your lucky day

God gave us the gift of life;
it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.

Voltaire

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(a female Mallard preens at the stream that runs through the grounds of Adare Manor, County Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I suppose a birthday is a day for a true celebration…
A reason for celebrating to the utmost as we only are offered one every 364 days.
A day for getting all gussied up and being able to preen about for a day…
just like the belle of the ball.
Or so that’s how I hear some folks go about a birthday.

And because I was born on a Friday the 13th I was always told that Friday the 13th was a lucky day for those born on such an ominous day of misfortune…hummmmmmm….

I’ve never been much for drawing a bunch of attention to myself.
I’m a bit shy about this whole birthday hoopla.
I usually do better if it’s someone else’s birthday, allowing me to make the fuss over them…
I don’t do well receiving the “fuss” as it makes me feel rather awkward.
I’m not certain as to why that is…
And mind you, it’s not that I don’t like to be remembered, I do— I’m just one who likes to keep it quiet and simple.

And to some degree I do attribute that whole birthday awkwardness to that whole adoption thing.
Not that my adoptive parents didn’t make birthdays marvelous—they did…
And it’s not so much that I am actually Sophia Loren’s love child….
Don’t look so alarmed…If you’ve been a reader here often enough you will see that that little piece of news surfaces every once in a while, but we still must keep that our little secret as Ms Loren isn’t totally aware of that little fact–but I digress…

Yet in all seriousness, as I ask to be indulged today in all matters serious and or celebratory as it is my birthday, it should be known that I am a firm believer in the transference of emotions from mother to child when a woman is pregnant. A woman who is angry, resentful, fretful, neglectful to and of the child she carries certainly conveys those negative feelings, thoughts and actions to that unborn child.

And whereas you may think I’m going off a bit half cocked on this one, I have spent many years having done a good bit of reading, study and research on the topic as it obviously hits close to home.

Imagine a woman who is pregnant…
A woman who did not want to be pregnant…
A woman who is shocked by the pregnancy, angry over the pregnancy, embarrassed by the pregnancy…
A woman who goes to great lengths to hide her pregnancy…so much so that she does not seek prenatal care, does not take care of herself as a pregnant woman should…plots and plans to immediately “get rid” of said baby once “it” is born…or even worse, harbors ill will to the unborn child and even considers ways of doing away with it entirely…

Terrible yes, but sadly it happens.

And now how are we to ever imagine that this little living, breathing human being inside is to develop happily, full of health and vigor, if there is a massive sense of dread and resentment and plotted abandonment looming over its arrival…
No warm and fuzzy nurturing here.
No fun little baby showers.
No bright happy nurseries.
No imagining what a little life’s potential is to be…
No warm daydreams of what will be…
Rather just dread, denial, anger, resentment, loathing…

Therefore pregnancy and parenthood are not to be entered into lightly…The ultimate responsibility for another life is woven into that mystical nine month time period…

So yesterday evening I caught a snippet of a story on the national news about some sort of law suit being filed by a group of women who had become pregnant while taking a particular brand of birth control pill. It seems that the pills had been mislabeled in the box–making the pills less effective on the days they were thought to be more effective.
These 100 plus women, who got pregnant due to the said ineffectiveness of the pills, are now suing the pharmaceutical company for damages and unplanned costs of now having to raise unplanned and unwanted children.

The story stated that 94 of the women continued with the pregnancies, carrying the babies to term.
Yet they are part of a law suit that states that they want to reimbursed for cost of raising a child and educating a child as they hadn’t bargained on doing such…

Hummmm…

Am I the only one left standing here wondering what of this is good?

I wonder how these children, who when old enough to understand, will feel knowing that their moms sued because they really didn’t want them in the first place and didn’t bargain on having to take care of them financially for say the next 25 years or so.

If that just doesn’t scream of warm and fuzzy parental nurturing….

Perhaps the irony of sadness here is lost only on me.

I have never been one to believe in birth control as a green flag for sex. It’s just simply not that easy nor that simple–despite everyone’s desire to make it so.

There is a grave and deep responsibility to having sex that our society, our culture, has apparently lost all sight of…
Even if you remove the Religious component there still exists a huge responsibility to having sex—it should be anything but causal.

Sex in our society has become as common place as buying a Coke.
Sex is sex and that’s that…no one wants it to be anything more–just a moment of self satisfaction reduced to a carnal animalistic level.

It seems as if it has become an unalienable right right up there with voting.
Sex is a huge marketing ploy, it’s huge in advertisement, huge in entertainment, huge in sales, huge in all sorts of venues that make this capitalist county of ours run—any dinnertime commercial espousing the importance of “looking for that just right moment” of Viagra or Cialis can tell you that.

Sex on a first date is as common as buying a pack of gum.
No longer is there commitment, a relationship, a thoughtfulness of both parties, or God forbid there be a marriage before hand as that is just so last century…or maybe even two centuries ago…

Yea yea, I know and I get it—I’m too old fashioned, or I simply don’t understand, or I’m just too uptight, or I’m too naive, or I’m too religious, or I’m too much of a prude, or I’m no saint so shut the hell up, or I’m too old, or I’m too conservative, or I’m too…just fill the blank…

I will simply say that it should behoove all of us to remember that sex comes with a huge responsibility that has a variety of end results and ramifications. Lest anyone one of us forget that nothing is a 100% guarantee to stop said ramifications but for one thing and one thing only—that being abstinence—and we all know that that ain’t happening in this “I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it and how I want to do it… so there” society of ours.

The sexual revolution of the 60’s….
Now there’s a revolution which has had catastrophic reverberations…
Sex for sex sake, we all can now have our cake and eat it too…we’ve rationalized everything, ignoring others, just in order to have our cake and eat it to the point that we legalized abortions by golly, we made morning after pills and we’ll do anything we have to do, even up to sertilizing ourselves, all in the name of having responsible irresponsible sex—causal or otherwise just because we want to so therefore we can—“it’s my body, my party and I won’t be crying”…that’s our liberated selves in a nutshell

Wherever has the importance gone?
The big deal?
The whole overwhelming awe in creating of a new life?
The desire to form a family?
The wonder of being a couple?
The mystical bond between a man and a woman bound in a single union?
The nurturing?
The specialness of the moment?
The sacredness?
Dare I say it, commitment…as in…for life…for Love???…
Where is the Creator who has joined two in the union for all of Creation…

Please know that I say all of this knowing that at the same time…
Life happens..
There are mistakes, accidents…we do things we regret, we didn’t really mean,
Things we’d change if we could…but simply can’t… or… that’s just the way it is and that’s that…

I am very much a believer in Grace…as I am a product of that Grace in and on so many different levels of this life of mine.
I believe that with God, all things can and will work to His Glory…if we turn it all over to Him…it’s just that some things may take the long way ’round getting there due to our not having listened in the first place…but He can and will still make it work in the end.

I realize that some of you just don’t buy any of what I’m saying and perhaps even vehemently oppose such a thought…
and that’s ok too.

But it is indeed my birthday and I think I’ll have my say since I’m shying away from any sort of hoopla.

And why for heaven’s sake should I venture into such heaviness on a day that is meant to be a day of celebrating you ask….Well I will celebrate later, quietly with my family, but as I have lived long enough now to know, as I reflect on this day of another year of living and to what that living of a life well entails, that we as a society, a culture, have got to turn things around and turn them around fast before turning around is, in a word, impossible…

So, on this Friday the 13th…to all those birthday babies out there young and old, legit or not, happy or sad, adopted or in foster care, alone or surrounded by a throng of loving family and friends– I wish you all happiness, joy and love….
Happy Birthday to me and to us….

Narcissus and the selfie obsession

“For the most part people are not curious except about themselves.”
John Steinbeck

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(Narcissus by Caravaggio 1597-99 / Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Antica, Rome, Italy)

I just don’t get it.

Were we not taking pictures, those of ourselves, long before the word selfie came into being the most recent phenomenon cultural obsession?
Those good ol days of the Kodak instamatic, with its four part flash cube, clicking away at the important moments of our lives. . .

Excitedly we’d pop out the film role, being careful not to expose it to light, racing it off to the nearest camera shop as we could barely contain our excitement over our soon to be developed pictures.
Only to joyfully retrieve the prints after several days of anxious waiting, marveling at the double exposures, red eyes, and blurry images as being careful not to get sticky fingerprints on the new glossy picture prints.
Were we a bit more cautious as to what we were taking pictures of as we knew that there was a person at the camera shop who would be developing said pictures and we certainly didn’t want him or her to see us in any poor choice of situation—perhaps with the developer acting as both filter and conscience. . .Hummmmmm. . .

But I suppose yes, we have come a long way. . .I just don’t know if its been a very good journey.

And social media, I don’t much get that either. . .

This whole FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram. . .”insta” this and that obsession in this obsessive connect every dot, unabashedly sharing of everything, and sadly I mean everything, with everyone and anyone world of ours. . .
Keeping up with the Joneses has now met the 21st century way.
A virtual brag sheet of trips and activities with the sharing of our intimate and private moments. . .with not only friends and family, but everyone!

Maybe it’s the latest national, no actually global, obsession, of everyone wanting their 15 minutes of fame—with, as we again sadly see, that fame often leading to instant demise. . .

I know what you’re thinking. . .you’re thinking I’m really showing my age, my ignorance, my uber unclooness. . .
Well I prefer hoping that maybe I just might be simply on a quest for wisdom.

I’ve stated before that I’ve never joined in with the whole FaceBook phenomenon.
I don’t tweet, pin, post, chat and whatever it is that most folks are now doing on this communicative world stage of ours.
Oh I understand the whole “it’s how I stay connected with my family who live so far away” mentality. . .I get that.
I get you want to see pictures of the grandkids. . .share what the kids are up to with a traveling spouse. . .share those treasured family moments with literally the world, I get it. . .I’m just wondering if we haven’t also turned into a culture of. . . what’s the word??. . .oh yeah, creepers or maybe just plain ol voyeurists–as we fill our time by pouring over ours and our neighbor’s, those known and unknown, virtual worlds.

Moms following their kids around cyberly making certain all is on the up and up until the kids “unfriend” them (which is good and all, but maybe policing their allowance of usage with technology would be better serving. . .I know, you’ve got an argument for that. . . as I’m obviously far off the grid here)
And what of the old high school and college flames reconnecting, never mind one or the other may still be married. . . or maybe you’re just trying to rekindle that whole “what was” business only to discover “what was” in now 40 years in the future and we and it has all been changed by time. . .

And yes I get the whole raise the awareness of current issues and crises. . .the promoting of businesses, the whole global drawing attention to the growing list of the lost and hopefully soon to be found. . .yet I fear our obsession is going too far—

And what’s up with this whole “sexting” business?
Where folks sashay out into the world of casual sex in a way that oddly is rationalized off as safe, as in no body is touching anybody and therefore there is really no sex, no potential disease, no true infidelity or premarital sex, so it’s all harmless—no biggie that you’re posting pics of your intimate areas as it were, looking for love or affirmation or whatever it is you’re looking for in all those wrong kind of places. . .only to see those private images go suddenly viral. . .now there’s a sticky wicket—and then that leads us to the growing sickness with cyber porn, child predators as we open an entire world of technology darkness. . .lets not even talk about cyber stealing. . .

Maybe you’re just feeling really good about yourself these days and you want the cyber world to know it as you upload selfie, after selfie, after selfie. . . .is there not more to your world than you?
And who exactly is it who is seeing these images. . . and just when you may have second thoughts about having posted those pics, hitting delete later doesn’t delete you from cyber space where you and that image remain until the end of time. . . .looking hot and good for ages to come. . .Hummmmmm

We’ve seen the selfie of the young lady, all grins as she snaps a picture of herself while on that special European trip, standing at the gates of Auschwitz—-a big ol happy smile with that cold dark gate standing behind her as the sign of “welcome” still remains. . .maybe she didn’t get that whole history of where she was standing thing. . .

What of the other young American tourists scratching their names into the side of the Colosseum there in Rome then snapping pictures in order to post to FB of their “kilroy was here moment”. . .never mind defacing a National historic treasure of Italy or the arrest, or of the fine. . .
or of the stupidity. . .

What of the tourists mugging for the camera with the bodies of the calcified remains of the victims of Pompeii—maybe it’s just me but that just seems a bit awkward—everyone pull in tight as we snap the pic of us with our arms around the case containing the remains of a human being who met a tragic end. . .everybody smile. . .

Are we so caught up in the moment of snapping that picture that we forget where we are,
what we’re doing. . .too busy to take it all in because we’d much rather get the perfect picture of us with “it”— and not merely of “it”, wherever and whatever it may be—as in look at me, here I am with “it”, at it, on it, under it, in it. . . but I’M here, ME, WE. . . forget it. . .

Oh sure there are the shots of the adrenaline rush moments with the GoPro taking us places most of us will never be or of things we will never see or of perspectives that are not our own. . . of the parachuters, the whitewater rafters, the free fall divers, the skiers, the surfers, the sharks, the rhinos, the birds, our dogs. . .

Yes there is certainly coolness and there is good. . .yet there is sad and there is dark as well. . .

I fear that our focus has become more about us, as in. . . see us, see we, see me. . .
all of this self obsession as a world continues spiraling out of control, as its troubles keep growing- – -yet we keep on smiling and sharing. . .


I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

Truth and Love have always won

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

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(a delightful little bowl of color on a bleak January day / Julie Cook / 2014)

It grows ever apparent that faith, the beliefs held by those who strive to live the Word of God and profess the victory of the Resurrection, continues to swirl in the murky waters of political correctness, appeasement, self righteous indignation, ridicule by both big media and the entertainment industry, as well as from the sense of many that it is all quite passé and irrelevant in this age of glamor, glitz, high tech, new fangled, ego filled, self indulgence, and the endless pursuit of self fulfillment.

Covenants and laws proclaimed long ago and most far away seem to have little if any bearing on the living large lives which now seem to be the current trend of the world. The endless consumption of placating food, drink, sex and drug all in the name of “If I want to, I certainly can” continues leading to a path of self destruction which is sadly unrecognizable by the masses. The vortex of self gratification relishes sucking in soul after soul with little if any realization that this is not a positive situation.

Governments vie for control of global markets, as world leaders continue to demonstrate personal bad behavior, claiming that what is done in private, is no one’s business, all as they roll toward the quest of becoming demigods. Terrorism, that overt selfish fanaticism of an alarming growing number of depraved individuals, continues to hold the world at large hostage. The freedom to worship a monotheistic God, which is not so free, no longer is a priority as the smaller gods of technology, entertainment, self, and money all jockey for control.

All of this while the keepers of the Faith are lulled into acceptance. “Don’t rock the boat” the lies are slickly whispered by the insidious ancient foe, “you might as well get on board because it is simply now the way of the world”—“be quiet, don’t say anything because the backlash is tremendous” —“it’s all too old fashioned you know, those antiquated beliefs or yours”. . .”you, with that Faith of yours, are all wrong for having those beliefs of yours, in fact you are no longer entitled to your beliefs because they run counter to the way of this country, this world, this new age. . .

Sounds all rather bleak and Orwellian does it not? Sounds as if you would prefer not to think about it, to turn away, to pretend it doesn’t exist. Why should you bother, just ignore it and hope it will go away, just leave me alone, you say, in my ever shrinking world–

Ok.
That is your choice, your prerogative. But the world, with its current ways, is not going away. It will continue telling you that you are wrong and it is right. Masses will rise up against you. You will be mocked and ridiculed until you decide to be quiet.
Don’t argue.
Don’t disagree.
Maybe it’s ok, you wish upon yourself. Maybe they are right you reassuringly question.
It’s just all too grey, not well defined. As long as people are happy then it’s all ok is it not?

Is it?

Hear the words of Martin Niemöller spoken in a different time and place:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.