Be wary, keep watching…the time draws nigh

I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night:
ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence,

Isaiah 62:6


(the German watchman nutcracker /Julie Cook / 2019)

“St. Augustine says, that to prevent the sheep from seeking assistance by her cries,
the wolf seizes her by the neck, and thus securely carries her away and devours her.
The Devil acts in a similar manner with the sheep of Jesus Christ.
After having induced them to yield to sin, he seizes them by the throat,
that they may not confess their guilt; and thus he securely brings them to Hell.
For those who have sinned grievously,
there is no means of salvation but the confession of their sins.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 138
An Excerpt From
Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguori

don’t put a squashed pine cone in your mouth…

“the ‘task of the conscience’– a word of great value in Western civilization,
is to determine what that divine purpose is and then to live
it out irrespective of the cost”

observations about Pope John Paul by George Weigel
excerpt taken from The Divine Plan
John Paul II, Ronald Reagan and the Dramatic End of the Cold War
by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando

The above image is a picture within a picture…or rather, it’s a still-shot from a video.
And the title is a quote I actually uttered yesterday…
as in, “DO NOT PUT THAT SQUASHED PINECONE IN YOUR MOUTH!!

However, that story will have to wait as I simply needed an
the attention-grabbing title today…
As in I wanted your full and undived attention.

I’ve been spending time with the Mayor and the new Sheriff the past several days,
helping out…and I hate that I’ve not even had the chance to share with you about their
charming encounter with the ocean…
But it seems as if the world has tilted just a bit further off her axis and has needed
a tad more of my attention than merely my chattering on as a doting grandmother
who’s droning on about her grandkids…

But first a quick word to the wise…it is not prudent nor is it wise to pick up a run over
and flattened pinecone and proceed to poke it into your mouth and then bite down…just saying.

But now to the matter at hand.

It seems that there has been a lot of talk as of late…here in the blogosphere, FB
(or so I’m told) as well as on various Christian media outlets about more and more
big-name Christians announcing their seemingly sudden withdrawal from the fold
so to speak.

As in there appears to be a slight uptick in the number of those recanting their faith
all in very public places and on very public platforms.

Odd to want to grandstand over losing one’s faith.
Opting to be vocal and in the spotlight rather than introspective, sad and
living the loss.

Or as IB so aptly noted the other day, in the words of the famous band out of
Athens, GA—REM—grandstanding over ‘Losing My Religion’…

And to be honest…not being one who runs in the evangelical or other
protestant denomination’s circles or one who keeps up with the current mega-church craze,
I can’t say that I’m familiar with many of these recently fallen sheep.

But as I’ve been reading…there is indeed a long, sad, public and very vocal fall
taking place.

I have, however, on the other hand, been a bit more focused on the sexual abuse scandal
rocking the Catholic Chruch as well as the naming of a few notable and now long deceased
Anglican priests whose names have been sullied by the same accusations.

And so as I look out over the horizon of our collective Christian faith—
our denominations far and wide, I can see Satan being very busy as work.

I’ve written about this so many times before that I think I must just be beating my head
against a brick wall but there is a divide and conquer mentality being applied to the
Christian fold and it is being applied fast and furious…
And the thing is… nobody seems to “get it”

I’ve also written that this is indeed a mad world—a mad mad world on so many levels.
Mad as in crazy nuts and mad as in viscerally angry.
We have troubles my friends and I do indeed fret for my darling grandchildren.

The slick lies that are being tossed about fast and loose as truth
from things such as children’s tv and music, to what defines a family, to
legalized murder in delivery rooms, all the way to the odd notion of fluid genders…
it is enough to make me want to grab up my babies and run and hide.

But we cannot hide.

We cannot ignore it any longer.
We cannot turn a blind eye and pretend this isn’t happening.

We are being spoon fed lies as truth.
Lies as legalized truth.

As a once overly zealous teen, when reading the stories of those early Christian martyrs in
places such as Rome and Judea, I would often imagine having been there and how I would have
hoped to have stood up so bravely as those countless men and women who suffered
grievously under torture, mutilation and even death—
suffered almost readily rather than giving in and recanting their faith.

Because their faith was precious.
It was dear.
It was sacred.

Today it seems to be more passe, victimized and tired.

And so when I read of these modern-day Christians recanting their faith
so flippantly and arrogantly, apologizing to the masses of those seemingly innocent souls
who they feel as if they had helped to lead astray, I am more than saddened, I am sickened.

For they have bought into the culture gods hook, line and sinker…
They are now the poster children of a hedonistic and self-absorbed culture…
selling a bad bag of goods to an innocent fold.

There are thousands around this world of ours who continue to die for the Christian faith.
They worship in secret and in whispered tones.
They live in places such as Russia, China, Africa, Myanmar, Yemen, Iran, Iraq…
They love Jesus and are willing to pay the ultimate price for that love.

Their worship is not easy nor is it easy to come by…
not as it is here in the West.

And yet here in the West, we too indeed suffer as well.
It’s just that we suffer on a quieter level.

Our suffering is on a more insidious level.
Our suffering is often more psychological than physical.

We are shunned, ridiculed, threatened with legal action and told we may not utter
the name of God or Jesus as we once did…
Words spoken, along with the right to speak those words, was simply taken for granted.

And maybe that’s part of the problem.
We’ve taken for granted the Precious and the Sacred.
We trivialized our God and made that which is Great, small.

And now Satan is working overtime.

Time is running out.
He knows this.

So, therefore, be not quiet.
Speak up and speak out.
Because it is a mad world…
in all sorts of places and in all sorts of ways…

gifts, speaking, demonstrations

“You must speak to Jesus, not only with your lips,
but also with your heart; actually, on certain occasions,
you should speak with only your heart.”

— St. Padre Pio


(Jules, black sheep and skellybegs…a collection of sheep / Julie Cook / 2018)

I collect sheep.

No, not real live sheep…but I kind of wish I did.

Think rather more like sheep/lamb figurines, prints, paintings…
And no, it’s not excessive or of the kitschy or silly…think more unique and even antique.

However, the latest acquiring is a bit silly but since we shared the same name, I really
had no choice.

I’ve got several of these sheep sitting on my kitchen counter above my sink.
They sit or stand, depending on the sheep, perched amongst various Icons that also
occupy this now apparently sacred space…the space above the kitchen sink.

And so it just seems natural that this particular space should be scared as it is
a space where I spend a good bit of my time…
in the kitchen and at the sink.

In some regards, I have these things here to help keep my mind on that which is greater than
as well as beyond.
Helping me to redirect my thoughts…
And it was especially important when I was still teaching and was in definite
need of redirecting.

My love of sheep goes back to the line in the confessional prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against thy holy laws.
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done;
And we have done those things which we ought not to have done;
And there is no health in us.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.
Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults.
Restore thou those who are penitent;
According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord.
And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake;
That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life,
To the glory of thy holy Name.
Amen.

(BCP 1928)

For you see, I am that straying and erring sheep in need of a Shepherd.

And so, sheep have spoken to my heart ever since I first learned of our similarities.

And I keep an eye out for the unique and special during my jaunts.

So when visiting the gift shop at Andrew Jackson’s home The Hermitage, I recently added to the
collection when I picked up a ceramic sheep made by artisans at the Colonial Folk Art guild
in Virginia.
The sheep was named “Jules”…a name that many have called me throughout my
entire life.
So it was a no-brainer.

Jules the sheep now sits by another ceramic sheep.
A black sheep that is more reminiscent of soot than wool.
He is quite round with nails acting as his legs.

A sheep that I suspect is from a raku firing where the pieces are fired to a certain temp then
removed from the kiln and placed into a metal can (metal trash can) that is usually filled with straw.
The ultra hot ceramic piece causes the straw to burn and naturally darkens the clay piece.
This black sheep is stained much like a raku piece.

My aunt picked him up from an artist in North Carolina and it was actually the last gift she
ever gave me.
It was a Christmas gift a year ago this past Christmas.

My thoughts are gravitating to this little black sheep because it was a year ago this month,
on the 12th actually, that my aunt died—dying suddenly while undergoing treatment
for cancer.

Now granted my aunt has “gifted” me with a few other things since her death…”gifts”
that her daughter had given me following my aunt’s death.
Gifts such as a few antique wooden duck decoys, a few of my aunt’s beloved turkey collection
(think me and sheep…well she was that way with turkeys…go figure)
as well as an ancient armless rocking chair that was my grandmothers.
My aunt’s daughter, this cousin of mine, actually passed away 6 months following my aunt’s
death…so we have closed a door on that small bit of family.

All of these thoughts of sheep and gifts came to mind when I read the words offered today
by Padre Pio…

The good friar admonishes us to remember to speak not always with only words but at times,
more importantly, we are to speak with our hearts…of which I suspect is more ‘actionary’…
demonstrative in the actions of a living embodiment of the Spirit within.

A thought which actually makes me think of the importance of what it is that we leave behind…
that which we leave behind to those who follow us…

Do we leave behind merely things..things that sit around collecting dust or simply conjuring
up forlorn memories…
or do we leave behind an example of that which is so much greater than ourselves…
a polestar that points others to the One who is so much greater and everlasting…

Sometimes the heart speaks louder than the mouth…

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:26

woe to the nation that turns it back on God

But to dance in the streets because you had just given mothers the right to kill their
own unborn child is not civilized.
It is barbaric.
Rather than progressing into being a more tolerant,
open and respectful society,
Ireland has regressed over 1500 years into his pre-Christian pagan past,
where the weakest members of society are not tolerated and not respected.
They are destroyed.

David Robertson


(Lady’s view, Killarney National Park, Killarney, Co Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s been almost four years since I went on my first and only trip to Ireland.

As it was my first trip to the Emerald Isle, I went with a deep sense of anticipation.
At the time, however, I wasn’t exactly certain as to what that anticipation actually was
or why I even felt it.

I am of Irish / Scotch descent and so trodding where my kith and kin once trod was of
course exciting.
My great-grandparents had long since departed this island nation and thus in turn set
in motion my own eventual homecoming…
a continuum of time linking generations of people who never had known one another,
and yet, who were forever bound one to another by a common piece of land.

And little did I know it at the time, but this would be the last trip that my aunt and I would ever take together.

So in hindsight, with both of us wandering about where other members of our family
had long since wandered, we had each received a special gift that was yet
to be fully appreciated.

At the time of the trip, my life was fractious at best.
I was in the midst of caring for both my dad and stepmother, each of whom was suffering
from varying stages of dementia. The trip was just a few months before Dad was to be
diagnosed with cancer…a diagnosis that would eventually take me to a very dark place…

And so I went on this trip before I was at my total breaking point but I was certainly
living in the rising crescendo of such a moment.
And so now I know that this was why God was calling me to this particular place
at this particular time.

It was because of all of this, as well as what I could not yet see that was waiting for me…
that this particular trip, along with three powerful words that I was to hear at the end
of the trip that would, in turn, be a turning point in my own life’s journey…

I had planned the trip a full year in advance before I ever knew how bad things
would be with Dad.
I had no way of knowing that when the long-awaited day finally arrived for our departure
that I would be more than a bit reluctant to go due to my caregiving duties.

I was worried sick about leaving yet grateful at the same time to be getting away.

I was running away and I was glad.

In my lifetime, I had traveled a good bit but for whatever reason, never to Ireland…
Yet unbeknownst to me at the time, it was to Ireland where I was destined to be.

Some would say it was just the perfect aligning of the stars, I would say God
was leading me right where He wanted me to be…leading me to a place in which I could
actually, hear Him speak.

As a history nut, I was excited to visit Ireland because I knew of her rich historic past
and Christian heritage.
That ancient intertwining of a rich Celtic tradition woven into the fabric of the
Chrisitan faith.
I also knew of the wealth of gifts Ireland had given Western Civilization through
her music, written word, song, and dance…

This once pagan windswept land, full of the last vestiges of both Viking and druid alike,
remains a mysterious land steeped in both legend and lore.
It is also a land that is home to more sheep than there are people.

And so it was in this land of my heritage of both myth and mystery that God spoke to me in
such a powerful and palpable way that I knew without any doubt, that it was Him
who had brought me here.

The words were bold and audible and I knew that even though the words were uttered by
another (thank you Paul), they were being spoken by God…to me.

So naturally, once I was back home,
I wrote about a post about hearing those three simple words…
“Be at peace”

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/10/04/stop-theres-another-sheep/

And maybe it’s because I saw that glimpse of God around each bend of lonely road and had
actually heard His words riding on the winds, winds that come sweeping in from off
the ocean…that the recently passed vote in Ireland to legalize abortion is
breaking my heart.

Yet it’s just not the vote itself that is breaking my heart but its the way in which the
Irish themselves are celebrating the vote which is so heartbreaking.

Our Scottish friend the Wee Flea, Pastor David Robertson shares my dismay.

” Celebrating the right to kill children in the womb as though it were a football match…
we are the champions…’we are a better country’ and yelling at the pro-life people
‘choice, choice, choice’ (what choice does the baby have?).
This is the new regressive Ireland.

David offers a rich in-depth yet extreemly melancholy observational post regarding the
passing of the vote as well as to the reaction of the voters…
a reaction that seems almost far worse than the vote itself.

This once predominately Chrisitan and very Catholic Nation was rocked to her core by a
heinous betrayal from the very Chruch to which she, this nation, was so grounded and anchored…
And so I just can’t help but think that such a vote and ensuing celebration is in some sick way
how the people have sought out their own twisted sense of revenge.

Yet I know that God still breathes His life’s breath upon this land, her people and her unborn.
But I am also reminded that God will turn His favor from the nation that turns herself from Him…

And so all I can do is pray for Ireland.

In order to prevent this slide into barbarity Ireland needs a new St Columba.
Ireland needs a Christian revival.
Pray for those who are engaged in church renewal and church planting in that once great country.
Pray that the anti-abortion campaign will continue and that the Church of Jesus Christ
will continue to reach out and show compassion to those who are considering abortion
and those who have had abortions.
May Ireland flourish by the preaching of the Word.
How long, O Lord, how long?

Ireland Regresses; Sunday, Bloody Sunday

revolution, murder or just a sad day when men forgot God?

“Over half a century ago, while I was still a child,
I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the
great disasters that had befallen Russia:
“Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution;
in the process, I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies,
and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away
the rubble left by that upheaval.
But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous
revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people,
I could not put it more accurately than to repeat:
“Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


((a sheep gazes out over the Atlantic among the cliffs of County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

When I think of what makes a revolution just that, a revolution,
I often think in terms of those heady days of yon when people were drunk with the
notion of upheaval and change.

Heads often literally rolled, blood was certainly shed as revolutionaries and “the people”
held up clenched fists in solidarity.

Revolution was the upsetting of the proverbial apple cart to the status quo and the deliberate
culling of the old guard.

“Power to the people” was boldly shouted over the din of clashing swords and
the volley of gunfire.

And so when I read the following quote by the Irish prime minister regarding the recent
vote to lift the ban on abortion in Ireland,
I was left wondering who were to be the ultimate victims of this particular “revolution”…

Because if anyone knows their history, there are always victims of a revolution…
many of whom are merely the innocent caught in the crossfire of man’s folly while the
revolutionaries disregard such losses as expendable,
the mere price to be paid for the revolution.

“The Irish prime minister has hailed his country’s “quiet revolution”
as early results point to a “resounding” vote for overturning the abortion ban.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44265492

I think we all know who the victims of this revolution will be…

Those who yet have a voice to speak…

“. . . we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life,
the “culture of death” and the “culture of life”.
We find ourselves not only faced with but necessarily in the midst of this conflict:
we are all involved and we all share in it,
with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.”

Pope John Paul II
(Evangelium Vitae)

the innocence of a child

All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
and great shall be the peace of your children.

Isaiah 54:13

“For children are innocent and love justice,
while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.”

G.K. Chesterton


(Autumn with her new sheep that Joy brought her)

I marvel daily at the tiny small gains of growth and knowledge.
I look into those glistening blue eyes highlighted by feathery little lashes…
small tiny hands reaching with the herky-jerky battle of involuntary versus control.
The longing to touch, to hold, to move, to sit upright…

How do you look at a child and question the existence of God?
How do you look at a child and consider an abortion?
How do you look at a child and selfishly put them in harm’s way?

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.
But the disciples rebuked them.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

Matthew 19:13-15

alligators and the capitulation of the church

“We need more public Christians, even though being a Christian in public is
getting tougher, says David Robertson, a Presbyterian pastor from Scotland –
a nation that has “secularised quicker than any other nation in history”

Excerpt from an interview with Eternity Magazine in Sydney, Australia


(Gulf coast alligator courtesy the Gaurdian)

The last time I visited the state of Louisiana was in 1982 for the Sugar Bowl.
My Dawgs were playing Pitt…we won’t talk about the outcome…it was such a long
time ago, I think I’ve forgotten.

However, Sugar Bowls or not, for some reason or another,
I’ve always been partial to Louisiana.
At one point I thought I wanted to attend for LSU for college…but then I wouldn’t have
been at the 1982 Sugar Bowl watching my Bulldogs play those Pitt Panthers.

But we’re still not ready to talk about that game so let’s just move on.

I’ve got cousins who call Monroe as well as Lake Charles home.
My dad took us on a visit when I was in the 7th grade.

Maybe it’s her history.
Maybe it’s her food.
Maybe it’s her beauty…
but I’ve just always been partial to Louisiana.

So maybe that’s why I’ve been known to tune into the History Channel’s Swamp People
show from time to time.
That quasi-reality show about those who make their living hunting alligators.

I mean who sits around at a boardroom table in either New York or LA and ruminate over
creating a show around the livelihood of folks whose families have hunted,
for generations mind you, alligators???

But there is just something about these people that I like.

They are real.

Well— relatively real.

If they were really real, I doubt they’d be doing television…but then you’ve
got to consider that a TV supplement is a nice added bonus to a diminishing payout for
alligator hides and meat.
I’m just saying.

These folks are not what most other folks would call refined, well to do, polished,
overly educated or even poised.

Some would call them backward, backwoods or dare we say, white trash.

And that’s why I like them.

They are what they are… a what you see is what you get sort of individual.
Some have had run-ins with the Law, the IRS, the History Channel…
even run-ins with one another…but in the end, they are what they are…
nothing more and nothing less.

Many of them are of Cajun descent.
There is a heavy French Louisiana accent that often prompts the television folks
to provide subtitles.
Really History Channel???
Maybe because I’m from the South, but I don’t need subtitles…

And so it was on a recent episode that one particular fellow was out hunting for wild hogs
(barefoot of course) when he came upon a couple of lost puppies out in the middle of the
nowhere woods.
Lost in the woods in Louisiana is not for the faint of heart.
There are poisonous snakes, wild hogs, coyotes, and yes alligators…
a place I would not be keen to get lost.

The short of this long tale boiled down to this fellow telling the cameraman that
“that’s why God made puppies, they’re just so cute you’ve got to want to take care of them.”

A gem of wisdom found in the backwoods of Louisiana.

A simple faith from a rather rough-hewn individual.

And so his words made me think.

I thought how great that our God was so loving and so thoughtful that He saw fit
to prewire in us an inward drive to take care of those who are smaller,
younger and more vulnerable.

A role I often think of when I think of the Chruch.
For the Chruch, the collective body of Fatih is there to take care of the fold—
which is us. The Believing faithful.
And as we are akin to sheep in many respects, we tend to be sheep-like,
so we certainly need an earthly shepherd.

Enter the Chruch…our ministers, our pastors, our deacons, our priests…
our Spiritual guiding servants of Christ

They are to lead and guide the fold.
They are to offer God’s word to the lost, the wandering and to the hard of hearing.
They are to teach us, inform us and instruct us in the ways of the Master.

They are to set the standard, the bar, the benchmarks for living a “Godly” life.

And yet it is that very body, The Chruch, which is actually letting us down.

The Church is not standing up for God’s word but rather she is capitulating to the
strong-arm tactics of an ever-changing culture…
a culture who is holding her arm behind her back,
having her to bend down before the gods of all things of culture.
Acceptance of one and all regardless of God’s admonition.

“We were known as ‘the land of the people of the book’, the book being the Bible,”
he says about Scotland. “Even as late as the 1950s, you’d have 1.4 million out of
4.5 million people being members of the Church of Scotland,
as well as Catholics and other groups.”

Today the Church of Scotland’s membership is below 300,000.
Scotland is on a rapid slide downhill, both in church attendance numbers and in
“the quality of churches and the impact on society.
We are throwing overboard our Christian heritage right,
left and center and that will come back to bite us.”

Robertson does not blame secularists as the main cause for the decline in
Christianity in Scotland.
The church itself is “the primary reason” for the decline –
and he’s not just talking about liberal Christians, which, as a conservative,
he might have been expected to target.

He says denominations (church groups) such as his own Free Church of Scotland,
a small Presbyterian denomination, became afraid and inward looking with
a tendency towards legalism.
The Church of Scotland, a liberal denomination is also in freefall,
with fewer than 100,000 worshippers out of a population of 5.5 million.

Click the link to continue reading David’s interview…and then pray for our guiding force,
the bride of Christ, the Chruch…

“Don’t be like us” says a true Scotsman – Interview with Eternity magazine