thin black line, 6th Ave Heartache

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

An odd thing happened two nights ago.

Now you need to remember that I was taken off my HRT (hormone replacement therapy)
about 7 weeks ago.
Hormones, I’d been on nearly 30 years.

Sleep has never been great, but take away the hormones and things immediately went
from bad to really really bad in literally a single night’s time.

However two nights ago, despite battling the need to breathe while living
with a sinus infection along with poison ivy, I was actually asleep.

How do I know?
I was flat on my back.

I’m usually a side to stomach sleeper yet at some point or other,
when I’m really asleep, asleep—
I’m always mysteriously flat on my back.

At 1:30 in the morning, I became aware that I was itching.
Groggily I started scratching at my poison ivy now spreading across my torso.
Suddenly in my head, I was hearing a song that I know I had not heard playing that day
as some sort of background music in a store.

Clear as day, playing lyrically in my head.

It was a song I’ve always liked..a 90’s sort of song…Why I’ve always liked it,
I don’t know, but it has always made me feel a bit heavy-hearted and melancholy.
Again, I’m not sure as to why.
Although it’s an older song, it seems to still be quite relevant.

Rousing my brain to full awake mode, I opted to get up and head into the bathroom
in order to slather on some more anti-itch medicine— all the
while that song kept ringing in my head…

“And the same black line that was drawn on you
Was drawn on me
And now it’s drawn me in…”

I crawled back into bed now restless as my thoughts were racing.
All the while still itching and listening to non-existent music playing.

Why was this song stuck in my head—especially when I was good and asleep??

The following morning, after grabbing my coffee, I googled the song.

According to Wikipedia , The lyrics are based on Dylan’s (Jakob Dylan)
own experiences while living in New York City, in particular, the story of a homeless man
who would sit outside Dylan’s window and play the same songs every day.
One day, the man was gone, but his things were still there,
until gradually people started taking them.

Well, that seemed to make it all feel even worse…doubly more sad than before.

So I kept digging a bit further.

What did the Bible have to say about a black line??

As I kept looking, I was constantly being redirected to the mark of Cain.

Hummmm.

Remember, being raised a poor illiterate Episcoplain kid, the breadth and depth
of Bible study was never my forte.
But I was now intrigued.

I knew Cain and Abel…really the very first tale of humankind’s lowest moments.
Or actually, that might have been their parents…but either way, we humans weren’t off
to the best of starts.

Choice…we never seem to have mastered choice…but I digress.

Why would God want me to think about all of this at 1:30 in the morning?
I know, I know…time to God is irrelevant but to a woman who hardly ever has deep
sleep, as in REM, I was just a tad frustrated.

There were (are) a lot of articles on the web about the mark of Cain
and many of them have some sort of racist connotation.
Naturally…it always goes back to race.

It seems race has been with us since the beginning of time and we still don’t know how to
deal with it—- gees…!
But again, I digress.

So after reading, I managed to find an interesting article on Bibleodyssey.com
written by Eva Mroxzek, an assistant professor of Jewish studies at Indiana University.

She hit on the whole good mark, bad mark thinking…
Cain killed his brother and God marked him for life.
The question…was or is…. was or is the mark a mark of shame or a mark of protection?

Was it leprosy?
A ‘keep your distance’ sort of mark?
Did God turn his skin a darker color?
Did God have a horn grow out of Cain’s head?
Did it have to do with circumcision?
Did God give Cain a dog?
Huh???

Did God have mercy on Cain and forgive him for having killed his brother…the first
recorded murder in human history only to followed by the greatest act of forgiveness??

But wait…was that the greatest act of forgiveness or was that actually
during Good Friday…
digressing again…

So, was the mark a mark of forgiveness…

On and on the so-called wise ones have debated this issue for eons.

And yet oddly here it comes visiting me at 1:30 in the morning by way of a 1996 song.

Ms, Mroczek notes at the end of her article…
“But the most striking interpretations rely on a later meaning of the Hebrew word oth:
a letter of the alphabet.
A midrashic text suggests that God inscribed a letter on Cain’s arm as a mark of protection
(Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer 21).
Thus, the mark of Cain becomes a sacred sign.
In another midrash (Tanhuma Genesis 10),
it is the word Sabbath that is inscribed on Cain’s face—after the personified Sabbath day
itself begged God to forgive Cain’s sin.
And a targum—an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Scriptures—
identifies the mark as the holiest sign of all: God inscribes on Cain
“the great and honorable name of the LORD,” namely the tetragrammaton,
the four-letter name of God (YHWH).

https://www.bibleodyssey.org/people/related-articles/mark-of-cain

So the jury is still out.

Why the song?
Why the direction toward Cain?
And is this a message of foreboding or passage of forgiveness.

I’ll let you know what happens when the next hot flash rouses me from
what little precious sleep there is…I’m sure God will have His say…
I just wish I was wise enough to figure out where He was taking me.
But if I knew that…there’d be so many answers to so many questions…

Heartbreak does seem to be happeing on all sorts of 6th Avenues across this Nation…

Sirens ring, the shots ring out
A stranger cries, screams out loud
I had my world strapped against my back
I held my hands, never knew how to act
And the same black line that was drawn on you
Was drawn on me
And now it’s drawn me in
6th Avenue heartache
Below me was a homeless man
I’m singin’ songs I knew complete
On the steps alone, his guitar in hand
It’s fifty years, stood where he stands
Now walkin’ home on those streets
The river winds move my feet
Subway steam, like silhouettes in dreams
They stood by me, just like moonbeams
Look out the window, down upon that street
And gone like a midnight was that man
But I see his six strings laid against that wall
And all his things, they all look so small
I got my fingers crossed on a shooting star
Just like me just moved on

no shame…but where are we really?

“the age of self-afflicted shame, is over…”
Mike Pompeo

Our (latest) Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo was in Cairo this past week.
And depending on your choice of news coverage, you may or may not have heard much about his trip
or of the speech he made.

And depending on that news outlet you tend to watch, read or listen to…you might have
gotten some mixed signals.

And to be honest, I’d like to be able to say huzzah to his speech…but does Pompeo’s speech mirror
the full policy of the US?

That, I’m not sure.

Our President tells us we’re pulling out of Syria.
His Secretary of Defense, General Jim Mattis, has resigned.
Word is that they are at odds over such a decision.

I have really appreciated what I have read about General Mattis’ leadership—I even wrote
a post about the character behind General Mattis…the type of military leader you’d want
having charge over your own son or daughter.

Last evening I heard that Trump is the most popular Republican president, in well, ever.
And as I am a huge Reaganite, I had to go double check out that latest factoid and there does some
to be some validity to such a boast.

Not that I don’t support our President, I do…it’s just that I feel that we, as a Nation,
have entered a new era of something other than…other than who and what we use to be.
An era that I’m not fond of.

Socialistic Democrat is an oxymoron that I don’t think I care to wrap my brain around.

When the likes of Joe Lieberman is publically mocked and disrespected by a  new up and coming
young Democrat, we’ve got trouble worse than most millennials will sadly ever understand.

But one thing I can appreciate is the speech that Mike Pompeo offered in Cairo.

America is not a nation that apologizes for supporting various nations.
With Israel being one of those nations—the elephant in the room when it comes
to the United States and the Middle East.

Nor shall America excuse the Muslim world for its culpability for those
who, in the name of Islam, commit heinous crimes against humanity.

We did not excuse a fallen Nazi regime.
In fact, there was an allied trial holding those who remained, accountable for their actions…
despite the argument that they were merely the following orders of others.

Here is an excerpt of Secretary Pompeo’s speech.

I found it powerful and reminiscent of an America I once knew…
I suppose we’ll see what will follow…

“It was here, in this city, another American stood before you” and, “told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from ideology.”

Pompeo’s view is unequivocal and crystal clear: “America is a force for good in the Middle East.”
He didn’t even add the usual qualifiers about our historic imperfections.
Expect our adversaries abroad and snowflakes at home to be mighty upset at this moral clarity and self-confidence
from the greatest, freest country on Earth. Our real allies will love it.

Pompeo’s speech had three watershed components:

First, Pompeo made it clear that the chief focus of U.S. policy in the Middle East is thwarting Iran’s
dangerous and tyrannical ambitions.
While violent jihadist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda still exist and deserve our attention,
they are now a lesser threat.
Also, by condemning Obama’s decision to do nothing in 2009 and 2010 when Iranians took to the streets
to protest their oppressive regime, Pompeo opened the door to supporting Iran’s internal opposition.

Second, Pompeo specifically called out “radical Islamism” and condemned Obama for not doing so.
This is a refinement and extension of President Trump’s condemnation of “radical Islamic terrorism,”
which is the tactic that Islamists use when they go violent.

Far from semantics, this change from “Islamic terrorism” to “radical Islamism” means that finally,
40 years after Islamists took over Iran, 36 years after Islamists blew up our Marine barracks in Beirut,
and nearly 18 years after Islamists attacked us on 9/11,
we can clearly name the ideology that animates most of the problem actors in the Middle East.

In contrast to failed efforts to either spread American democracy or apologize for it,
this means we can rally all of those opposed to radical Islamism,
including monarchies and imperfect republics across the Middle East that oppose Islamist theocracy.
It means we can be clear about opposing not only terrorists like Al Qaeda,
but Islamist political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Third, Pompeo outlined the Trump administration’s rigorous efforts at diplomacy across the Middle East,
which have contributed to radical change and unprecedented cooperation.
Pompeo disclosed that “Egypt, Oman, Kuwait and Jordan have all been instrumental in thwarting Iran’s
efforts to evade sanctions,” and lauded assistance from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

He added that “private companies in France, Germany, Britain and elsewhere have calculated
that enriching themselves through work with the regime is bad for business” –
a gentle and much-deserved slap at the governments of those fading allies
that have actively opposed getting tough on Iran.

Pompeo reminded the audience that last year,
“the Israeli national anthem played as an Israeli judo champion was crowned the winner
of a tournament in the UAE.”
This story and scores like it have been missed by our mainstream media.
American strength and moral clarity and fear about the threat from Iran are dissolving
old animosities and creating new alliances. We may actually see new Arab embassies in Israel.

Finally but crucially, Pompeo included a cautionary principle regarding what the U.S.
is willing to do in the Middle East.
Remarking about U.S. support he said: “But ‘assist’ is the key word.
We ask every peace-loving nation of the Middle East to shoulder new responsibilities for
defeating Islamist extremism.”

This is the fundamental essence of “America First.”
We will not apologize for America, we will stand up for our interests,
and we will cooperate with our allies as long as they are willing to share the burden
of preserving freedom.

Adding an additional touch of pragmatism, Pompeo condemned the Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad,
but cracked open the door to aiding postwar reconstruction if Assad kicks the
Iranian military out of Syria.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/pompeo-at-site-of-obamas-address-to-muslim-world-rebukes-his-legacy-age-of-self-inflicted-american-shame-is-over

This is the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem:
Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets,
and their tongues will rot in their mouths.
On that day people will be stricken by the Lord with great panic.

Zechariah 14: 12-13

shame healing

“I cry, I cry and I cry again…the religion of Christ, the true faith,
has fallen so low that it is an object of scorn not only to the devil
but to the Jews and Saracens and pagans…
these keep their law, as they believe it;
but we, intoxicated with the world, have deserted our law.”

Pope Gregory VII

Healing and miracles have been a mystery to men of all times.
To some, the phenomenon is frightening, while others find it exhilarating.

Mother Angelica

christ_pantocrator_mosaic_from_hagia_sophia_2240_x_3109_pixels_2-5_mb
Christ Pantocrator / Hagia Sophia / Istanbul,Turkey)

“Our nation will not know healing in any measure through the work of mutual shaming.
There is no life to be found in it, only anger, depression
and the continued darkening of our culture.
Only light gives life.
Creating is difficult, careful work.
Destruction is easy – child’s play.
Forgive those who do not deserve it.
Forgive before they ask.
Forgive as though it is Judgment Day and your own soul will be held to the scrutiny
you extend to others.
It’s ok.
You won’t lose anything through forgiveness.
In holding onto the shame of others you will only increase your own.
Speak kindness.
Be generous.
Set your prisoners free.
No more shame slaves.”

Fr.Stephen Freeman

worry, what me?

“The same has happened on this side of the pond when Christians
think that their views on Brexit are essential to the maintenance of the gospel.
Do we not realise how puny and pathetic it is that we play power politics with
our limited knowledge and abilities?
Does it not display a lack of trust in the sovereignty of God?
We are certainly entitled and encouraged as free citizens in a democracy
to have our own political views–
but we are not to make the Kingdom of God dependent on them.
Sometimes the Lord will use a pagan king, like Cyrus,
to fulfill his will.
Sometimes he will convert the Emperor.
But at all times those who are his people need to rely on him to open the door.”

David Robertson

d4c6ea0e2d387adadf284ac846b05090
(Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman)

For some odd reason, mainstream media, most political leaders, liberal Hollywood…
the list only grows daily,
are all feeling as if the world, as we know it,
will be coming to an end by week’s end.

And then on the other hand, we have a growing number of the faithful
who believe that the ‘end of time’, once again as we know it,
is to take place,
as well,
by week’s end…
as in Jesus will be trumping, no true pun intended, Friday’s inauguration.

And if you’re anything like me, you may actually be hoping for the latter as
I’ve had just about all of the naysaying, whining, grousing, fussing, cussing
and downright vile vitriol sputum flowing out of the mouths of most of this
angst ridden nation of ours that I can stomach.

We have governmental elected officials and leaders who are threatening to boycott
a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have entertainers who are encouraging defiance and protest before and during
a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have colleges, state funded mind you, providing “safe places” on their campuses
for their dismayed students to be able to cry and be comforted because
of a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have fellow Americans threatening other fellow Americans because of a presidential
inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have other country’s warning and threatening us with reprisals, retribution or retaliation
over a presidential inauguration.

Shame on you.

We have the birth of fake news taking place because of a presidential inauguration…

Shame on us all…

It beats all I have ever known in this lifetime of mine.

News flash.

I don’t think the end will be ending on Friday.
Pretty certain you can take that to the bank.

It’s all just a shame.

A shame that educated adults are behaving so badly
as we wonder why the kids are behaving so badly.

Adults setting examples of immaturity, pettiness, ugliness, hate, tit for tat,
alarmism, rudeness, disrespectfulness…
everything accusatory that was shouted at the president elect for what was claimed that he
was displaying and demonstrating
is now being demonstrated and carried out by those very accusers—

So now it appears that no one is acting any better than the other…
and there’s nary a soul in this Nation who has decided to demonstrate real character by
taking the high road…

A few weeks back I read a wonderful article by a Scottish pastor, David Roberts, reflecting on
a bit of this current obsessing over the idea of the end times…
as it seems everyone on either side of the fence, faithful and not,
are in some sort of rising state of panic….

I offer a link here for the faithful and the non faithful alike….

Why Christians Need to Stop Worrying about the End Times – (Revelation no.7)

snowflakes

“The paradoxes of today are the prejudices of tomorrow,
since the most benighted and the most deplorable prejudices
have had their moment of novelty when fashion lent them its fragile grace.”

Marcel Proust

black-amp-white-flakes-photography-snow-snowflake-favim-com-286496
(image courtesy Favim.com)

There’s a lot of talk currently in my neck of the woods about snow.
In fact the “talk” is more like a warning of an impending National disaster.

Yesterday while driving into Atlanta to Dad’s…those matrix boards above the interstates
alerting drivers to accidents, etc. were all running the same ominous and foreboding message…
Winter Storm Warning

For much of this hearty country of ours, such approaching weather systems
are no big deal…
it’s just more of the same ol typical winter weather…
but in this tender southern state, those signs might as well have read:
THE END IS NEAR AND WE ARE ALL DOOMED!!!

So this morning, with all the local news forecasting the Apocolypse,
I figured that maybe I should run out to the store to grab another half gallon of milk…
Lord knows I’d hate to be iced in, snowed in or both,
without ample milk for my coffee or any sort
cake or recipe that I may want to whip up while being stranded and cut off
from all civilization…

The shopping center looked like it did a couple of weeks ago during the
Christmas shopping frenzy.
I had passed school buses running basically backwards…
as in they had just taken the kids to school
and now they were bringing them all back home due to the early dismals
in observance of the impending disaster.

While I was making my way through the maze of shopping carts frantically filling up
with survival foods such as chips and sodas…
I debated about picking up something different for supper.

The chicken section was almost empty with only a few errant packs of thigh / leg combos.
When did chicken make the list of the typical disaster foods besides bread and milk?
Of which I am happy to report that the milk section was fully stocked…
or should I make that restocked…

Next stop, the bank.

Fridays are never a good day to go to the bank as everyone is getting paid and
in turn, heading to the nearest bank.
Add impending doom…
and shades of 1929 come racing to mind.

While standing at my teller’s counter there was a couple in their mid 20’s at the teller next to me.
They were loudly lamenting to the gal behind the counter,
and everyone else in line, that they were “tired of being adults.”

Really? ( thought in a monotone of sarcasam)

I chuckled and turned to look at this forlorn lamenting duo.

They continued on about how they were ready to trade in their “adult cards” wanting,
I suppose, to return to the Land of Nod and innocence.
“How,” had they known, “that if life would be like this,”
whatever “this” may have been,
“would have squandered more of their money while trying to “enjoy life” …

I kid you not.

I offered, rather bemusedly, that it doesn’t get any easier…
which certainly didn’t offer any comfort to their sense of gloom and doom…
but then again I am a realist and one who is a believer in the phrase
“aging is not for sissies”

Later back home,
I stumbled upon the reference of snowflake being used with regard to this
same mid 20’s aged group, twice!

Once on a news program discussing the impending inauguration being akin to another
type of apocalypse to many, and that colleges are providing their tender charges
places of calm and comfort, in hopes of soothing their mounting fears.

Another reference came while I was reading the blog of a Scottish pastor waxing on
about today’s colleges which are providing warnings (trigger statements)
to students that biblical studies will have graphic imagery regarding the crucifixion and
veterinary studies will have to discuss such topics as dead animals,
while the forensic students will be seeing, wait for it, dead bodies.
Obviously things all too gory and disturbing for these tender “snowflake’s” sensitive likings.

They are a most fragile lot are they not?
And will certainly melt at the drop of a hat…

Or so it seems as many adults, especially those in higher institutions of learning,
fear as they race to coddle their youthful charges.
And so it is as I am now hearing it first hand with my own ears, while at the bank…
That many of these snowflakes are actually already tired of the real world and
simply want to go back to being “irresponsible kids”….

Hummmmm….

This coming on the heels of the news of that now infamous and most heinous viral Facebook
story coming out of Chicago…
the story about those 4 young people who were arrested for kidnapping, beating and torturing
a mentally handicapped young man.
Ranting on and on at him about F’ing Trump and F’ing white people while cursing him,
cutting him, taunting him as he was tied up and had his mouth duct taped shut….
They filmed their antics while boasting that they wanted this recording to go viral…
they wanted the world to see what they were doing while laughing all the while doing it.

Chicago’s police chief said that these sorts of horrendous incidents from young thugs would,
in the future, only escalate.

Here we have not so much snowflakes, but rather icicles…
cold and dangerous youth living without
regard for the sanctity of human life.

So maybe those interstate signs should read:
“Warning and Shame”
“We’ve let our youth run amuck and now we are left trying to pick up the pieces”

As our same Scottish pastor laments that the Church herself is as much to blame as anyone for
the wailing of these youthful generations as she has dumbed down Christianity into
a Disneyesque sort of happy fun thought…
where things like sin and death…that whole ransoming of our sins with payment coming
in the form of death on a cross,
being just all too much for this up and coming youthful generation
who are either too sensitive or too callous for the reality of life, death and faith.

Shame indeed.

Here’s to the impending snow storm…
may we have enough milk, bread and now chicken, to survive….

Snowflake Theologians Given Trigger Warning about the Crucifixion

Cast forth a great light

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.

Psalm 112:4 NIV

“So don’t be frightened, dear friend, if a sadness confronts you larger than any you have ever known, casting its shadow over all you do. You must think that something is happening within you, and remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why would you want to exclude from your life any uneasiness, any pain, any depression, since you don’t know what work they are accomplishing within you?”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

DSCN4194
(door of the granary of the Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo / San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014)

I spend my life swirling in and out of the shadows of Death.
A precarious dance with darkness.
As the cold languid hand offers itself to entice me, to lure me, to lull me.

A spell is cast and the die is tossed.

A gossamer veil of deceit falls across the window.
No one can see, no one need know, I may do as I please.
The choices all mine as the caliginous night covers the secrets of sin.
A sinister glee echoes off the walls.

Truth is known, yet purposely ignored.

He twists his lies into the false truths I call my own.
The lies swirl around my feet as I sashay around the floor.
The lights are dimmed, blurring truth into the sweat which mingle and fall away.

Suddenly a door is thrust open
A blinding light floods the murky pitch,
quickly diffusing the darkness.
The shadows, which clung to the night,
drip eerily down the walls.

Standing for the first time, awkwardly alone, vulnerable and striped bare of the vibrant scarves of falsehood,
knees now buckle.
The sordid images of my deeds, flash against the brilliant sky.
The burden of guilt hangs heavily around my neck.
No longer are there shadows to hide within,
as the toxic dance concludes.
Hope has overtaken the darkness.

The radiant Light burns away the layers of filth which were once worn with pride.
The lies, the falsehoods, the deceit. . . drifting forever away–diffused in the rays of the powerful brilliance which now claims the room.
The mantle of guilt is gently taken from my weak frame.
The heaviness and fatigue giving way to grateful relief.

Light engulfs my nakedness, clothing me in an all encompassing and warming radiance.
There is a necessary healing in the Light.
Shame is expunged
Guilt is vanquished
Freedom now offered
Love now the Victor

Gone forever is the long night.
Death, now bound in chains, is quickly forgotten.
The shadows all dispersed, the murky fog lifted.
The sins all finally exposed.
Truth now sweetly claims my hand.

Because of my foolishness, the lamb’s blood had to be shed
My selfish follies rendered a price.
Love beaten, nearly broken, was laid bare
Keeping me from the shadows of Death, the sacrifice was freely made.

Assurances fill my being, flowing inward with the cascading knowledge that He’d do it all again–
— simply to have this last dance.
All of this as He lovingly reaches to raise my chin, lifting my face to His–
With a single glance, what was broken is now made whole.