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

lambie pies

While many try to ignore Jesus, when He returns in power and might,
this will be impossible.

Michael Youssef


(an Irish lambie pie / Julie Cook / Sleive League, Co Donegal, Ireland / 2015)


(my own lambie pie / Julie Cook / 2018)

Whereas this being Easter…there is much to say about lambs, sheep, shepherds, sacrifices
Salvation…but…unfortunately the pace of life right now just won’t permit me to dig
any deeper, share any more or go any further than this…

Two images of two very different lambie pies…

Each with their own very different stories yet under the watchful eye of the
same Creator, same Shepherd…

So as I will be here, there and yon all weekend…running on no sleep…
I wish you all a joyous Easter…

He is Risen…
and so we may shout Alleluia…

Oh, and by the way, the word Alleluia, or its variation Hallelujah, is not used in the
liturgical service throughout the Lenten season…as Lent marks a very solemn time period
for the Chruch.

But if you’ve ever had the opportunity to attend an Easter Vigil service on
Holy Saturday evening—a deeply solemn service bathed only in flickering candlelight…
as at the stroke of midnight, of which signals the beginning of the day
of Ressurection…the lights are illuminated as we shout
“The Lord has Risen indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!!!!

And now a little historical background to my most favorite Easter Hymn….

From the hymn, Jesus Christ Is Risen Today.

for Easter

This version of the anonymous Latin hymn,
“Surrexit Christus hodie,” is first found in a scarce collection entitled:—
Lyra Davidica, or a Collection of Divine Songs and Hymns,
partly new composed, partly translated from the High German and Latin Hymns;
and set to easy and pleasant tunes. London: J. Walsh, 1708.

Of the history of this collection nothing is known,
but the character of its contents may perhaps lead to the supposition that it was compiled
by some Anglo-German of the pietist school of thought.
The text in Lyra Davidica, 1708, p. 11, is as follows :
“Jesus Christ is risen to day, Halle-Haile-lujah.
Our triumphant Holyday
Who so lately on the Cross Suffer’d to redeem our loss.
“Hast ye females from your fright Take to Galilee your flight
To his sad disciples say Jesus Christ is risen to day.
“In our Paschal joy and feast Let the Lord of life be blest Let the Holy Trine
be prais’d And thankful hearts to heaven be rais’d.”

…The oldest Latin text known is that given by Mone, No. 143,
from a Munich manuscript of the 14th century.
This manuscript does not contain stanzas 4, 6, 8, 10, 11
(enclosed in brackets above).
Of these stanza 6,11 are found in a Breslau manuscript, cir 1478;
and stanzas 4, 8, 10 in the Speier Gesang-Buch (Roman Catholic), 1600…

The modern form of the hymn appears first in Arnold’s Compleat Psalmodist,
2nd edition, pt. iv., 1749, where the first stanza of 1708 is alone retained,
and stanzas 2 and 3 are replaced by new ones written without any reference to the original Latin.
This recast is as follows:—
Jesus Christ is ris’n to-day. Hallelujah.
Our triumphal holyday
Who did once upon the Cross Suffer to redeem our Loss.
“Hymns of praises let us sing Unto Christ our heavenly King Who endur’d the Cross
and Grave Sinners to redeem and save.
“But the pain that he endured Our Salvation has procured
How above the Sky he’s King Where the Angels ever sing.”

Variations of this form are found in several collections.
The following is in Kempthorne’s Select Portions of Psalms, &c. 1810:—
Hymn lxxxii.
“Benefits of Christ’s Resurrection to sinners.
“Rom. iv. 25. “For Easter Day. “Jesus Christ is ris’n to day;
Now he gains triumphant sway;
Who so lately on the cross Suffer’d to redeem our loss.
Hallelujah.
“Hymns of praises let us sing, Hymns to Christ our heav’nly King,
Who endur’d both cross and grave, Sinners to redeem and save.
Hallelujah.
“But the pains, which he endur’d, Our salvation have procur’d;
Now He reigns above the sky,
Where the angels ever cry Hallelujah.”

The next form is that which was given to it in the Supplement to Tate & Brady.
This was added to the Supplement about 1816.
This text is:—
”Jesus Christ is risen to-day,
Our triumphant holy day;
Who did once, upon the cross, Suffer to redeem our loss.
Hallelujah, “Hymns of praise then let us sing Unto Christ our heavenly King:
Who endur’d the cross and grave, Sinners to redeem and save.
Hallelujah. “But the pains which He endur’d Our salvation hath procur’d:
Now above the sky He’s King, Where the angels ever sing. Hallelujah.”

To this has been added by an unknown hand the following doxology:—
“Now be God the Father prais’d, With the Son from death uprais’d,
And the Spirit, ever blest; One true God, by all confest. Hallelujah.”

This doxology, from Schaff’s Christ in Song, 1870, p. 198,
is in the Hymnal Companion and one or two other collections.
Another doxology is sometimes given, as in Lord Selborne’s Book of Praise, 1862,
Taring’s Collection, 1882, and others, as follows:—

“Sing we to our God above—Hallelujah! Praise eternal as His love;
Hallelujah! Praise Him all ye heavenly host, Hallelujah!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Hallelujah! ”

This is by C. Wesley.
It appeared in the Wesley Hymns & Sacred Poems, 1740, p. 100;
again in Gloria Patri, & c, or Hymns to the Trinity, 1746, and again in the Poetical Works,
1868-72, vol. iii. p. 345.
The above text from Tate and Brady’s Supplement, cir. 1816,
is that adopted by the leading hymn-books in all English-speaking countries,
with in some cases the anonymous doxology, and in others with that by C. Wesley.
It must be noted that this hymn sometimes begins:—
“Christ the Lord, is risen to day Our triumphant holy day.”
This must be distinguished from:— “Christ the Lord, is risen to-day,
Sons of men and angels say,” by C. Wesley (p. 226, i.);
and, “Christ the Lord, is risen to-day, Christians, haste your vows to pay:
“a translation of “Victimae Paschali” (q. v.), by Miss Leeson; and,
“Christ the Lord, is risen to-day, He is risen indeed:” by Mrs. Van Alstyne (q. v.).
Another arrangement of “Jesus Christ is risen to-day”
is given in T. Darling’s Hymns, &c, 1887. This text is stanza i., ii.,
Tate & Brady Supplement, with a return in stanza i. lines 3,
to the older reading; and stanzas iii., iv. by Mr. Darling.
It may not be out of place to add, with reference to this hymn,
that the tune to which it is set in Arnold, and to which it is still sung,
is that published with it in Lyra Davidica. The tune is also anonymous,
and was probably composed for the hymn.
The ascription of it by some to Henry Carey is destitute of any foundation whatever,
while Dr. Worgan, to whom it has been assigned by others,
was not born until after the publication of Lyra Davidica.
[George Arthur Crawford, M.A.] –John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
Hymnary.org

Might a new day be dawning????

“When the church redefines sin and eliminates repentance,
it can no longer offer the good news of eternal salvation from sin in Jesus;
the church no longer remains distinctly Christian;
it is no longer salt and light in the world,”

(excerpt from the Southwark Declaration nailed to a Cathedral door)


(recent Southwark Declaration grievances nailed to the doors of Rochester Cathedral)

And so it has begun…

And I for one rejoice!!!

Almost 500 years to the day, over the course of the past 48 hours,
a band of “back to the Bible” disgruntled, dare we say it, Orthodox Anglicans
have followed in the footsteps of Luther and set about nailing,
or in most cases tacking or taping, a two page document of grievances
to the doors of Anglican Cathedrals across the UK.

The document is known as the Southwark Declaration named for the
Diocese of Southwark in which the original letter was composed.

According to an article in PJ Media written by Tyler O’Neil…
On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, anonymous evangelical Anglicans posted
a 95 Theses-style complaint on the doors of five British cathedrals.
The first complaints went up on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting
of the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany,
and the documents pinned to the doors referenced Luther in calling for the Church of England to follow the Bible on LGBT issues.

“500 years ago Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to a church door in Germany,”
one document reads.
“He did it because the church had become corrupt.
Today a Declaration is being fixed to a cathedral door here in England because the Established Church in our land is becoming corrupt.”

“The Church of England claims it has not changed its doctrine but its practice
on the ground has already changed: clergy are adopting lifestyles which are not
biblical and teaching that such lifestyles are holy in the sight of God,”
the document explained.
“This revisionism is causing a crisis not only in Southwark Diocese but across
the whole of the Church of England.”

You can read the full article here:
https://pjmedia.com/faith/anglicans-pin-95-theses-style-complaint-on-lgbt-issues-to-doors-of-5-uk-cathedrals/

The Vicar of St. James’ Church of Westgate-On-Sea, The Reverend Stephen Rae, has
opted not to remain anonymous but rather has publicly admitted to nailing the
document to the doors of Canterbury Cathedral….the Cathedral at the very heart of Anglicanism and the Church of England.

“It is with great sadness that I posted the Southwark Declaration in Canterbury
Cathedral,”
Reverend Stephen Rae, vicar of St. James’ Church, Westgate-On-Sea,
told PJ Media in a statement.
“This building that stands sentinel over the Church of England has been a symbol of Anglican leadership with, perhaps, the greatest global reach for centuries.”

“Now it has become synonymous with abdication and dereliction of duty;
it stands accused as a distracted and negligent parent that has abandoned
its children,”
Rae added.
He quoted Ephesians, noting that the apostle Paul called “the faithful
under-shepherd” to “guard the flock against the wolves that would seek to
enter the fold.”

Citing the ordination oath the Church of England, Rae added,
“We are not merely to assert biblical truth.
We who have been entrusted with the precious gospel that speaks life into the
hearts of wretched sinners are also called to drive away anything that would lead the flock away and into judgment.”

“God never calls his people to innovate in matters of first importance,”
the vicar concluded.
“If a leader of the church does this, he has misunderstood his calling.
We are to hold out the radically inclusive gospel that leads to repentance and faith. Playing fast and loose with what God really meant when he said what he said never
turns out well.”

The Southwark Declaration

As clergy and lay people in the Diocese of Southwark:

We affirm the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures and their supreme authority
in all matters of faith and conduct.

We affirm with Canon A5 that ‘the doctrine of the Church of England
is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers
and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.’’

We affirm, with Article XX, that ‘it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any
thing that is contrary to God’s Word written.’

We affirm the teaching of Scripture (Genesis 2.24, Mark 10. 7, Matthew 19.5),
the Book of Common Prayer, and Canon B30 (‘Of Holy Matrimony’)
that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life.

We affirm it is the one God-ordained context for sexual intercourse.

We affirm resolution 1.10 on human sexuality of the Lambeth Conference (1998).

We call upon all the Bishops, Archdeacons, and the senior staff of the Diocese,
alongside all clergy and licensed lay ministers, to affirm these truths,
live by them, and to teach in accordance with them.

We call upon the Bishops to appoint to positions of teaching authority
only those who hold to these truths in good conscience.

“Where leaders refuse to repent and submit themselves to the Word of God, the Lord raises up new leadership for His church and new structures: just as He did through Martin Luther 500 years ago.”
(closing excerpt from the “nailed up” Anglican Southwark Declaration)

More on all of this tomorrow but for now, let us allow all of this to sink in…
slowly…
as we pray for the brave vicar and others who are speaking up,
stepping up and letting it be known that the Gospel of Jesus Christ
and the Word of God will stand…despite man’s attempt to alter it or change it
to suit his or her desires….

Authentic representation

To be nobody but myself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make me somebody else-means to fight the hardest battle any human can fight, and never stop fighting.
e.e. cummings

No one man can, for any considerable time, wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which is the true one.
Nathaniel Hawthorne

DSCN1839
(a charming little sheep sculpture made by artist Marina Hamilton– County Donegal / Julie Cook/ 2015)

I had fallen in love.
For 15 days, I had fallen in love.
I had traversed the countryside, climbed upward and downward to what seemed to be each hill and dale, skirted the coastline, stood upon pinnacle after pinnacle gazing out over land and sea all the while as I tasted, saw, heard, felt and sensed what it was, what it is, that made/makes this island nation so enticing… as I had simply fallen in love with the sheer wondrous beauty which was lovingly laid out by a masterful Creator before my very eyes…

Yet I had fallen in love with something else as well…as in head over heels in love…for I was taken with and smitten by the endless sea of sheep.

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(a soon to be sheared sheep / County Cork / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(a sheep sits enjoying the day, somewhere near Slieve Liag, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(a freshly sheared sheep, County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

White faced, long haired, short haired, with horns, without horns, black faced, black sheep, brown sheep, all white sheep, spotted sheep–every kind of sheep imaginable…I had loved each and every one I encountered.

Why?

I’m not sure…I’ve just always had a deep affinity for sheep, as I have always fancied myself one day being a bit of a sheepherder.

Most likely it’s because I identify with the spiritual analogy of sheep–of our being like lost sheep with Jesus being the shepherd who goes out in search of that one lost sheep–aka, me…
He didn’t let it go, cutting his losses, but actually left the flock to go searching for the not so bright one who wandered off….

Or maybe its the whole sacrificial lamb analogy…the deeply mournful words spoken by the ancient prophets…he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

Whatever the reason the love has always been there…but the recent adventure, which brought me face to face, pretty much cemented the deal of true love.

Never mind that they are dirty…bearing poop stained butts. Never mind they don’t make for the most loyal of pets–if you can call them pets. Sheep are skittish, flighty, loud, and are certainly not the brightest animals on the food chain— hence why they are more or less dinner for many an opportunist predator…yet there is just something about them…

And maybe it’s just seeing them sitting, standing, grazing in a most pastoral idyllic picture perfect, kodak moment, locale of sheer sheep beauty that just seals the deal–peace on earth kind of wonderful.

How does one capture, taking home that whole feeling of the moment… of that love at first sight sort of instantaneous feeling—tasting it, savoring it, holding on to it for later when both you and it are parted and far removed from the very moment of being delightfully caught together in time?

There are a million touristy, kitschy, chotskies of the made in China variety of the cutesy Disneyesque sheep any tourist can snap up at any numerous shop throughout the country. Yet I wanted something real, something tangible, something as close to the real deal and unique as I could find.

As our time together was drawing to a close, I felt myself slipping a bit into the heaviness of melancholy as I was actually mourning–it was hard to still be happy, enjoying the moment as I knew I was mere days away from departing—and for who knows how long—a year, a few years, a lifetime?
Would I be back?
I could not say.

Wandering into a little shop of locally made crafts, in the middle of County Donegal, I immediately spotted my keepsake.

He was a little sculpted ceramic sheep made by a local artist. There were actually two perched on a display pedestal. I looked them both over–picking them up, feeling the unglazed heft of clay in my hands, the weight of something solid and substantial…all the while as I looked into those black glassy eyes. I made my choice and gingerly carried my “skelybegs” (a butchering amalgamation of the gaelic surroundings) to the counter. As he, yes it was a he I had decided, was a piece of art, he did not come cheap, but to me, he was worth the cost and then some as he spoke volumes of my Irish adventure.

Once home, I excitedly and carefully unwrapped my prized possession. I had painstakingly carried him by hand the final leg of the journey, even on the long plane ride home, so having unwrapped him and seeing he was in one piece, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I then lovingly placed my little sheep on the counter in the kitchen right next to one of my favorite Russian Icons of Jesus…as it only seemed fitting to have the sheep by the Shepherd.

I greatly enjoy seeing that sheep each and everyday as I lovingly labor about in the kitchen as it helps me to hold onto a very special place and time.
Yet my little clay sheep is but a mere representational reminder of something that, although I deeply love, is far removed from me and my daily life.

The clay sheep is a token of remembrance, a reminder and a representative…
yet he is a far cry from the authentic real deal sheep.
He merely captures the spirit of an enduring love and intrinsic connection to something deeply important.
Which got me thinking…

Jesus–that icon or image of the mystical shepherd sitting next to my little sheep…
Obviously not the real deal either…yet it is rather a visual representative of someone who was… and in my heart and mind, of someone who still is…

Obviously I understand that, feel that and acknowledge that…but what about others…?
What about the countless numbers of non-belivers or other faith believers or even those Christian believers who do not have that knowledge of that tangible Being…how are they to ever understand the depth of the love offered by the one true Shepherd…certainly not from a mere picture, icon or image…it certainly has to be more….

What of those countless numbers of folks currently around the globe, during these terribly trying times, who are more wary than ever before of what being a follower of Christ truly entails.

And then it hit me….

It’s not a matter of those of us who “get it” or truly understand being simply rote, mindless, empty, lip-syncing followers who merely show up to “worship” on Easter, pull out those dusty nativity scenes at Christmas or slap some sort of fish on the back of our car window or flippantly check off on a form that we are of the Christian persuasion but rather it is imperative in these ever growing darkening days that an authentic representative understands that he or she is to step up to the plate…one who understands what it means to be a true imitator of Christ….picking up and taking up the Cross and in turn understanding that that means dying unto self…as an authentic representative understands, grasps and lives the idea that a true imitator of Christ is called to do just that…imitate how Jesus lived and that living often exacts a tremendous price…a price often paid with ones very life, a price we must all be willing to pay….

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Ephesians 5:1-2

Marked for life

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers…
Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep…
If any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture…
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep

(Jn 10:1-11).

Without a shepherd, sheep are not a flock”
Russian Proverb

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(somewhere along the road in County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

They dot the landscape en masse, like a springtime field erupting in a profusion of dandelions–an endless sea of white punctuated by a few black dots.
It is said that there are more sheep in Ireland than people and for anyone driving throughout this magnificent island country, such a casual observation seems to ring of pure truth.

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(somewhere along the road in County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

These sheep reside inside the city limits, grazing contently on residential lawns.
They are on the rolling hills, the rocky crag topped plains and they oddly inhabit the myriad of tiny islands circling this mystical coast.

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(somewhere along the road in County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

They rest in the roads, on the rocks and in the bogs.
They roam contently wandering endlessly this greenest of green island nations.

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(somewhere along the road in County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(somewhere along the road in County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

And yet it remains a bit of a wonder as to how any farmer, rancher, or dare we say shepherd, knows exactly where his or her sheep may be at any given time as it seems as if they aren’t really anywhere but actually are, simply put, everywhere constantly both day and night.

Yet any good farmer, rancher or shepherd, worth his or her salt, possesses what seems to be an innate knowledge or sixth sense when it comes to their animals…
They know…
They just know.
Their animals are a part of their very being.
The sheep are plainly put, their livelihood.
The sheep determine if a family can pay their bills or not.
It’s simply their business to know.
It is their life to know.

They know because their sheep are tagged, painted and tracked by dogs–as in sheep dogs

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(somewhere along the road in County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(a sheep farm somewhere in County Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

Blue denotes ownership or farm.
Red denotes time of shearing.
And tags denote location.

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(somewhere along the road in County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

It is as if these sheep are marked for life.

When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit

My sheep hear my voice: and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them life everlasting; and they shall not perish for ever, and no man shall pluck them out of my hand.
(John 10:27-28)

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(a sheep grazes somewhere in County Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

Lambs and palms

“In the divine Scriptures, there are shallows and there are deeps; shallows where the lamb may wade, and deeps where the elephant may swim.”
― John Owen

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(a little woolen black faced sheep holding an old palm cross from a long ago Palm Sunday / Julie Cook / 2015)

Palm Sunday.
A Spring day associated with newness, freshness and arrivals.
A day Christians remember as a day of holy joy and triumph.
The marking of a celebration–as proclaimed by the ancient prophets, the remembrance of Jesus riding into Jerusalem. He rides on the bare back of a young colt as the masses enthusiastically greet him, laying giant palm branches before his retinue.

He is welcomed, honored and proclaimed as King, Messiah, Savior.
A miracle worker whose benevolent and kindhearted ways were oddly unfamiliar and foreign.
A liberator who had finally come into the impoverished lives of those living in the dry,
barren and forsaken Roman outpost, as Jews were still living under siege and occupation.
For this man Jesus, had come to set the captives free. . .
Or so both wise and misguided solely believed–for each,
their idea of freedom was to be a double edged sword. . .

As the palms waved. . .

Sheep and lambs–
Is there anything seemingly more simple or docile?
The epitome of blessed peacefulness.
Nothing like a beautiful green field dotted idyllically with a flock of such easy going grazing animals bahhing and bleating til their heart’s content.

For some odd reason, I had always proclaimed that I would one day be a sheep farmer,
a shepherd of sorts.
A bucket list since I was a wee lass.
Tending and caring for the sheep and lambs.
The black faced ones, in particularly, seemed to call out to me much more so than
their all white or black counterparts
What do I know about raising sheep?
Absolutely nothing.
I was raised in a city with the closest sheep being at the zoo.
There was no 4H in my urban school affording this would-be shepherd any opportunity at the whole herding dream.
It was to the way out, miles out, another life out, out to the fleeting countryside where there were only cows upon cows with nary a sheep to be seen.

Yet sheep called.

Bach’s pastoral cantata, Sheep may Safely Graze was and continues to be a favorite.
Melodic, light, lulling, soothing. . .
Visions of an ancestral home in either Ireland or Scotland, depending on the side of
the family I was currently fantasizing about,
sweetly beckoned as I knew there were fields full of sheep each awaiting my care.

As the sheep called.

Yet as sweet as sheep and lambs appear, age has taught me that sheep are no pushovers. They can be a stubborn lot. Refusing to be guided yet needing constant direction.
Left unto their own devices, sheep can quickly wander into trouble.
They need to be coxed, prodded, and herded. They need to be watched as being almost entirely defenseless, they fall easy victim to any and all cunning predators. Running is about their only means of defense. They need shearing, feeding, protecting and lots and lots of space as they are voracious grazers.

Yet sheep called.

Maybe because I always saw myself as the 1 out of 99.
Maybe because I love the Little Drummer Boy, who had nothing to lay at the feet of a king but his tender lamb.
Maybe because I understood all too well the whole not being the brightest of the animal kingdom and needing lots of oversight and protecting as wandering lost was very real. . .because all of that hit too close to home.

And the lambs called

Maybe it was because I saw Abraham with his hand held high balancing his heart between love and obedience, as a single knife reflected the light from the heavens above. Obedience was set to slit the throat of his young son Isaac, love being almost crushed and silenced.
Tears flowed, a heart was breaking, young questioning eyes, frightened, stare into his fathers, as obedience was set to act. . .
When mercifully a substitute was graciously found.

And the lambs called

Maybe it is because of the words of Isaiah. . .

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

(Isaiah 53:3-9)

Still the sheep called.

As the sheep continue to call.
As a lone woolen sheep magnet triumphantly clutches a long ago discarded palm cross, worn on a long forgotten Palm Sunday. . .

And the sheep calls as the palms wave

Yet it is to the Shepherd who tends His flock that my ear is attuned. As the sheep whose shepherd calls their name and they respond, I too respond to the call of my own name being called.
Misguided
Lost
Wandering
Stubbron
and even defiant
The Shepherd patiently calls,
as the sheep knowingly responds. . .

as the sheep continue to call, the palms continue to wave. . .