the tale of a tetovierer

Who has inflicted this upon us?
Who has made us Jews different from all other people?
Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now?
It is God that has made us as we are,
but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again.
If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left,
when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed,
will be held up as an example.

Anne Frank


(image of some of the children in Auschwitz holding up their arms to a cameraman,
showing the tattooed number on their arms / BBC)

I am not a fan of tattoos.

I’m just not nor have I ever been.

And this coming from a retired art teacher who had many an aspiring tattoo artist
in class.

I truly believe that what one finds grand, fascinating, bold as well as defining
at say age 18, will not hold the same sense of fascination, boldness nor still
be defining at say age 58…

Plus I can’t help but see a good bit of an underlying psychology underneath a
need to permanently “ink” ones’ body…..

But hey, that’s just me.

It’s obviously not the rest of our culture’s or society’s mindset….
I’m just a one hole pierced earring sort of girl….

I like things understated and simple really…elegant, ageless and timeless.
I blame my grandmother…thankfully.

I grew up with many Jewish friends.
I attended Synagogue with them as they came to church with me.
I feel a deep connection to our Jewish brethren as I happen to
claim one of their own as my Savior.

Yet in all my years, I never knew nor had met anyone who had been a survivor
of the Death Camps.

I knew many a WWII veteran but never an individual who lived to tell the
horrific nightmare of having lived when one was expected to die…

I knew Vietnam Veterans and even POWs of that war, but none from
those infamous Death Camps of a previous war.

So I have never seen an aged wrinkled arm that bears the fading yet distinct
numbers of one’s time spent surviving death.

I did a pencil drawing once of a portion of a forearm and hand…
It was a man’s arm and hand.
There was a number scrawled on the inner wrist running about an inch and a half
lengthwise up the forearm–along with an inch wide hole piercing all the way through
the palm of the hand…
the backdrop was what one would assume to be a rough hewn piece of wood….

His death, the death of the man whose arm I had drawn, had not been in vain and
had not been for but a select few…it had been for all…
as He had been there, in their midst, with all those who had those numbers
inked onto their arms, despite many Jews to this day truly believing that God
had abandoned them during the Shoah …

The biblical word Shoah (which has been used to mean “destruction” since
the Middle Ages) became the standard Hebrew term for the murder of European Jewry
as early as the early 1940s. The word Holocaust,
which came into use in the 1950s as the corresponding term,
originally meant a sacrifice burnt entirely on the altar.
The selection of these two words with religious origins reflects recognition
of the unprecedented nature and magnitude of the events.
Many understand Holocaust as a general term for the crimes and horrors
perpetrated by the Nazis;
others go even farther and use it to encompass other acts of mass murder as well. Consequently, we consider it important to use the Hebrew word Shoah with
regard to the murder of and persecution of
European Jewry in other languages as well.

Yad Vashem

And so I never gave much thought as to those tattooed numbers on those forearms.
I never thought about who was charged with having to “write” them…
I never thought about when exactly it was, during the ordeal,
that they had received them…
And how odd that I had never known anyone who had endured what it meant to have one.

The other day I caught a story with a rather interesting title….
The Tattooist of Auschwitz–and his secret love

Visions of today’s tattoo artists in my mind is of an individual who
themselves is covered in various images and colors, electric pen in hand…
a master of a cultural craft.

Throw in the notion of a secret love and all manner of clandestine activities
suface in one’s imagination.

Clicking on the story, I am met with the tale of a man and of the life
he lived and of an age-long sense of heaviness for having betrayed the
millions who did not survive.
I believe that is called survivors guilt.

And yet in this tale there is found love, loss, rediscovering, life, hope….
and finally a sense of understanding that there was no culpability for
simply having survived.

The story is set in Melbourne, Australia…
a far cry from a Death Camp in 1940’s Poland.
And the hero of this tale actually died in 2006.
It took him until he was well into his 80’s to even be able to share his story…
much of which his now grown son had not known. Not many who survived liked to
talk about their stay.

The story is of Ludwig “Lale” Eisenberg who later changed his name to
Lale Sakolov.

Lale’s story was coaxed out of his memory by Heather Morris
who has since written a book The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Lale was a Slovak Jew who, like the other Jews in Czechoslovakia, was sent
to Auschwitz.
He was 26 years old.
He did manual labor at the camp until he contracted typhoid.
He was cared for by a Frenchman who had actually been the one who had
tattooed Lale’s number on his arm 32407.
The man was known as in the camp as a tetovierer, or tattooist.
He was charged with “writing” the numbers onto the arms of those coming into
the camp who would be staying—those being sent immediately to the gas chambers.
did not receive numbers.

Eventually Lale became the tetovierer to the camp.

Yet in the middle of madness and death, love was actually kindled.

An 18 year old girl found herself standing before Lale…one in a myriad of women
waiting in the long line…
waiting their turn to exchange a life and a name for a number.

Lale did not like tattooing the women—there was always a sickening feeling in
the pit of his stomach, but he did as he was ordered.

Gazing up at this girl who stood before him, his heart was immediately taken
by this girl’s bright eyes.
Her name was Gita.

Gita and Lale’s life together actually began that fateful day in Auschwitz–
and the twists and turns are amazing…

There is a lovely video clip on Heather’s kickstarter page that she put together—
which I assume was created to help raise the necessary funds to write and publish
Lale and Gita’s story.
The book is now available on Amazon…I ordered mine today.

Below are two links—
the first is Heather’s story along with a brief video overview about her finding
and forging a relationship with Lale, who would eventually share his story with her.

The second link is about the story as written by the BBC.

For even in the midst of misery and death, remains hope…there is always Hope.

http://www.bbc.com/news/stories-42568390

Can a human being really remain neutral?

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who,
in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

Dante Alighieri


(photograph of Carl Lutz, Swiss Ambassador to Hungry, as seen from the cellar
where he and those he protected waited out the battle of the Soviets over the Nazi occupation)

I promise, really I do…..
I’ll get back to my focus on what I took away this week when watching our friend the
Wee Flea but first—- I have to share this story.

It’s a story I saw day before yesterday and it begged me to stop and
read further.

I did and I was glad that I did.

The story is a story with a back story….
and I believe it will be beneficial for us to first read the
back story in order to fully understand the front story….
of which is an end story…. which is really just a story about humankind.

How’s that for a story about a story??!!

I would think that most of us who know any little something about nations,
countries, Europe wars, etc, knows that that tiny land locked country of Switzerland
is and has always been known for being fiercely neutral.

It has watches and clocks.
It has the Alps and skiing.
It has snow and the Matterhorn.
It has Heidi and cows.
It has chocolate.
It also has neutrality.

As in it maintains a fierce state of neutrality.

The words ‘fiercely neutral’ almost rings of an oxymoron…..
because when one thinks of the word and notion of being neutral and of neutrality,
one would naturally think nonchalant, laid back or indifferent…
not seemingly to care one way or another as to what’s going on around
say, in the neighboring countries.

Think of it like “we’re neutral, we’re not getting involved with that…”
sort of mindset.

Switzerland is globally recognized as a Neutral Nation.

Meaning Switzerland doed not engage in wars nor will it get involved.
Despite having a military requirement that all young Swiss males serve two years in
the Swiss Army.

My husband has a life long Swiss friend who has shared his tales of committal to a
military inscription as a young man. He marvels that I would love to have had his
Government issued Swiss army blanket as those original blankets now command a
pretty penny.

According to a story on the BBC Travel section, the Swiss have not always been
a neutral nation. I found this to be quite interesting.

Their past, it turns out, might actually appear to be a bit more unsavory than
gallant as they started out not so much as indifferent as they did fortuitous mercenaries.

According to Merriam Webster a mercenary is of a person,
or the behavior of said person, which is primarily concerned with making money
at the expense of ethics.

That doesn’t sound too much like someone interested in being a
humanitarian or neutral now does it??

And even currently found on the Swiss government’s website it states that not only is
the nation to focus on the country’s humanitarian bent
(think Red Cross on flag for a reason)
it lists some of the rules: The country must refrain from engaging in war,
not allow belligerent states to use its territory and not supply mercenary troops to belligerent states….

Hummmmm…..

According to Billie Cohen the author of the article,
even the way the country is set up seems like the epitome of peaceful
coexistence. Politically it’s a direct democracy;
culturally it recognises four language groups;
and as you crisscross the cantons, you feel like you’re visiting four countries:
Italy (in Ticino), Germany (in Zurich), France (in Geneva)
and a unique descendant of the Roman Empire (in Grisons).

I’ll let you click on the link below for the full story of Switzerland’s neutrality
as it is rather interesting but suffice it to say that being a mercenary nation
became no longer advantageous nor profitable as the Swiss were militarily routed
by both the French and Venetian forces in 1515.

Selling out then to France, as acting bodyguards to the King, became the path of least resistance and least painful….that was until a certain French Revolution
rolled around, as heads were also rolling, so thus a rethinking,
or more like a redo or makeover, was in the works.

Neutrality it would be.

But then the World Wars happened, and that reputation was sorely tested,
especially during WWII when Switzerland controversially bought Jewish gold from Nazi Germany and refused Jewish refugees.
“From a Swiss perspective, [neutrality] was successful in so far as Switzerland
wasn’t involved in fighting,” Goestchel explained.
“There have been many debates if Switzerland was really neutral,
especially in WWII, but it wasn’t involved in fighting activities.”

( http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20170717-the-country-that-cant-choose-a-side)

And so it helps for us to understand Switzerland as a whole before we can fully
appreciate the story a certain Swiss diplomat…..

All of this—this particular story, makes me wonder….
It makes me wonder as to how is it that I can still be amazed??
How can there continue being tales of such goodness and quiet heroism that just
seem to keep popping up out of the blue during a time of such horrendous darkness?

Just when you’re pretty certain you’ve read or heard all there is in the way of
the positives during the World’s greatest time of negative…
something else is uncovered, unearthed and brought to light…

One of those still hidden, yet rare tiny gems.

And so is the story of Carl Lutz.

Mr Lutz was a Swiss diplomat who had served his diplomatic time in the 1930s
in Palestine.
(Remember Israel was not yet a nation…that was after the war in 1948)
He was up and transferred to Budapest in 1942—a rather precarious time
for a transfer during what was shaping up to be a full blown European war.

Upon Lutz’s arrival it became most apparent quite quickly that Hungary’s Jews were in
grave peril and Mr. Lutz realized that in his position,
that of a lone diplomat in a country that no longer had an American or British embassy,
it rested upon him and a handful of others to do something drastic.

Dubbed Switzerland’s Schindler, Lutz got to work.

As one of a few remaining diplomates Lutz was to act as “diplomat” for those
countries no longer represented in Hungry. He was to represent the interests of those countries who had removed their staffs due to the war.
So Lutz went about the task to create a slew of protective passports under the guise of various countries….and not for just individuals, as he had lead German authorities
to believe, but rather passports to entire families.

He also fudged his number counting hoping that the Germans would not notice.

For those Jewish families and individuals who he could not spirit out of the country,
he found and created 76 safe houses and places that he could hide them away—
away from the Nazis seeking to deport all of Hungry’s Jews to the Death Camps.

It is estimated that Lutz saved the lives of 62,000 people.

“It is the largest civilian rescue operation of the Second World War,” says Charlotte Schallié.

Other diplomates still living in Budapest did the same. Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish envoy did his share to assist the Jews. But it was Lutz who made the decision to use
his own Embassy as a safe house.

After the war, when he finally returned home to Switzerland, it was not to a
hero’s welcome as one would imagine. Instead Lutz returned across the border alone.
There was no congratulations from his colleagues or Government but rather a
stinging rap on the knuckles, a reprimand for overstepping his boundaries and
for being what was thought to be careless and foolhardy.

Yet Lutz’s selflessness and humanitarian bravery has not gone totally unnoticed.

Over the years Lutz was awarded honors from Israel, Hungry, The UK, The United States
and slowly even Switzerland has made a few memorials to one of their own who
when push came to shove chose to take a stand rather than to stand by in neutral
watching thousands of men, woman and children being sent to certain death.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42400765

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.
Would that you were either cold or hot!
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold,
I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Revelation 3:15-16

who’s the real hero

Ok, when I read the following story I realized that it said it all–
there was nothing I could add or even say…because this story does indeed say it all…
perfectly…
Please enjoy…..

The Quiet Hero Of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’
(Hint: It’s NOT Jimmy Stewart)
Entertainment Now
FOX News — Paul Batura


(Christmas classic celebrates its 70th anniversary)

As we approach the 71st anniversary of Frank Capra’s perennial Christmas classic
“It’s A Wonderful Life,” I think it’s time to reexamine the film’s heroes.
The result might surprise you.

As a child, I assumed the hero was Jimmy Stewart’s wholesome hometown character,
George Bailey. The American Film Institute agreed, listing George as the ninth
greatest screen hero of all time. After all, the whole point of the movie is to
show us what life in Bedford Falls would be like without George.

We quickly discover it would be pretty grim – a dark and foreboding shantytown
owned by an evil millionaire named Henry F. Potter,
a miserly character played perfectly by Lionel Barrymore.
The film revolves around George,
the congenial and affable everyman who bravely stands up to Mr. Potter’s greed.
The hero had to be George, or so I thought.

In my teens and twenties, when my faith became my own and I began studying
more closely the mysterious and spiritual side of life,
I thought the hero had to be Henry Travers’ character,
Clarence Odbody, Angel Second Class.

It’s Clarence who saves George – so that George can continue to help save
everybody else. Though theologically questionable,
the thought of a guardian angel is comforting.
Plus, it’s Christmas and angels play a significant part in the Yuletide story.
For years, Clarence had my vote.

But now that I’m in my forties, and as a husband and father,
I’ve come to realize that the biggest hero of the movie isn’t George or Clarence.

The biggest hero is actually a heroine, Mary Hatch Bailey,
played by Donna Reed.
She’s George’s poised and unflappable wife and the mother of their four children,
Janie, Pete, Tommy and Zuzu.

Here’s why:

Mary is patient: George and Mary are about to head off on their honeymoon
just as there’s a run on the Bailey Building and Loan.
George abruptly cancels the romantic trip to New York City and Bermuda,
instead spending their savings to keep the business solvent.
His bride doesn’t complain. She pledged to be his wife for “richer or poorer” –
and Mary quickly keeps her sacred vow.

Mary is long-suffering:
The newlywed couple moves into a dilapidated and drafty old house.
Does Mary want more?
She never lets on but instead gets to work making the rickety house a home.
Later, when George foregoes a big payout by declining an offer to sell the
business to Mr. Potter, Mary doesn’t criticize her husband’s idealism.
Instead, Mary throws herself into the care and nurturing of the children.
She’s content.

Mary is responsible:
With World War II raging and her husband deferred from military service due
to his poor hearing, Mary eagerly volunteers to do her part for the country.
Despite being a busy mother of four, we see Mary running a local branch of the USO.

Mary is a woman of prayer:
When George, stressed over the missing $8,000 now owed to Mr. Potter,
rages red-hot and hurls insults in every direction on Christmas Eve,
it’s Mary who keeps her cool.
After George storms out of the house,
Mary urges the children to pray for their father.
She prays, too, and she also gets to work.

Mary is a woman of quiet action:
It would be easy to sulk and sour in the midst of the family’s traumatic day,
but after urging the children to pray,
Mary immediately picks up the phone and rallies the help of their family and friends.
When George returns with a new and improved outlook,
Mary doesn’t lace into him or even question where he’s been.
“You have no idea what happened to me!” George cries.
To which a smiling Mary, about to welcome in an adoring and jubilant crowd of friends, responds,
“You have no idea what’s happened.”

At a time in history when popular culture is being reminded again about
the importance of respecting women,
the many positive attributes of Donna Reed’s seven-decades-old character affirm
anew what William Ross Wallace first wrote in 1865:
“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”

Heroism manifests itself in many forms in the overlooked or understated people
of this world, most especially spouses who sit outside the spotlight and mothers
who sacrifice on a daily basis for their children.

Christmas is a wonderful time to remember that greatness often comes quietly,
as it did in the form of a helpless baby to another quiet woman named Mary.

The tale, Part I

“A year jammed full of adventure and misadventure,
strides forward and many steps backward, another year in my topsy-turvy,
Jekyll-and-Hyde existence.”

Anthony Kiedis


(the lone baggage carousel in the Pellston, MI airport / Julie Cook / 2017)

What do you notice about the picture up above?

Well, there seems to be a couple of stuffed animals…which might
give the impression that the location of this particular carousel is somewhere
in the wilds of nature.

Secondly you might notice it’s empty…as in no luggage is currently riding
the merry go round….

And that’s exactly what we saw late one afternoon last week when we flew into this
upper Michigan tiny little regional airport—

This is a long story that I want to keep brief so I’m cutting to the chase as
quickly as possible…
I’m going to be leaving out a good bit of detail so do
your best with your imagination as I offer you the basic facts…
But I will post it in two parts as it is, like I say, a long story.

I don’t fly often…maybe once, maybe twice a year if at all.
So the question is…why has Delta lost my luggage on 4 separate occasions
during the past few years?

Good question.

Second question, why was I surprised that it happened again on this
latest adventure.

Let’s back up.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that my past
three years of life have been trying at best.

From caring for elderly parents who didn’t live nearby and didn’t want caring—
both suffering from dementia and yet requiring help, lots of help….
One being a stepmother who ended up resenting everything and everyone…
so much so that she began claiming she was not married,
nor had she ever been married…to my dad…this after 20 years….
If she had those thoughts in the beginning, things might be easier now,
but I digress.

There was the commuting to and from the city for months upon months
Think Atlanta traffic….

We then had a year of successive loss.
We lost my father-n-law, my niece and then my dad…
and if you count my stepmother being moved out of state following dad’s death,
well that’s a quasi sort of loss.

We’ve suffered and are currently suffering again through the anguish of cancer.
My husband is still embroiled in a legal nightmare over his dad.
As we have grown weary of mind, body and soul.

Our son took a job at the onset of Dad’s illness and he and his wife had to
hurry to the city where they leased an apartment while their house here sat
sort of empty sort of not….for a year now.

Then there was the putting together of the pieces of Dad’s world
following his death…
a process that is proving monumental and still seemingly nightmarishly
unending….
Mourning got put on the way back burner as wrestling more with anger
and resentment pushed sorrow to the side.

Our son and his wife next moved into Dad’s old house, cause that’s what
Dad wanted….
Yet it is an old house needing much work.
As we are still wading through that.

Our son is changing jobs.
All of this as we now race, with everyone driving back and forth
to empty and clean the house here in order to put
it to market….
too many houses and apartments currently in our lives.

Throw in my husband’s retail business and those worries and hassles,
throw in our own home, our own lives and worries….
and you’ve got a toxic mix for a potential meltdown.

Enter the notion of getting the heck out of dodge…
aka taking a much needed vacation.

My husband has never shut down his business for any reason—
not even for death…not his mind you….
So when he announced that he was past tired and thought
he’d close the week of the 4th,
and please find somewhere cool we can go for a few days
(sadly he isn’t a fan as I am of the beach),
I wanted nothing more than to make him happy.

A time to get away,
to change the pace,
to forget the looming nightmares
and to clear both our minds and ours sights.

He was really excited.

We haven’t taken a trip like this in a long long time and getting far away,
seemed to be something most needed.

All seemed to fall neatly into place.
Someone to watch the cats.
Someone to watch the closed store.
A new roof going up at Dad’s.
Tickets all aligned.
Everything was good to go.

That was until we got to the final point of airport destinations
when Delta decided to keep my husband’s luggage in Detroit
while my luggage met us in Pellston.

I wearily approach the gal at the one small counter of this
regional airport’s only desk.
She assures me that its “no problem…”
Delta will bring the luggage to our hotel tomorrow morning.
“But we have to be on a wilderness train ride at 7 AM and my husband needs
his jacket and tennis shoes.”
“Well there’s a Wal-Mart about an hour from here…
and where is your hotel?”
“Salut Ste Marie”
“US side or Canada side?”
“Canada.”
“Oh.
“What do you mean oh?”
“We can’t take luggage across the border.”
“WHAT?”
“There’s a Wal-Mart about an hour from here.”
“What time is the next flight in from Detroit?”
“5 and 1/2 hours.”
“WHAT?”
“We have to drive the almost two hours to Canada this evening”
“There’s a Wal-Mart about an hour from here”

We had no choice but to wait on the flight.
While the hot tears formed in my eyes, I stewed over the lost
time of daylight and of the afternoon we’d planned to use
to explore the region before checking into the hotel in Canada…
as I forlornly lamented over our precious limited time being
needlessly eaten away…

This entire little airport shuts down in-between flights as flights are
so few and far between.
The car rental windows shut, the agents leave, the baggage handler leaves, the
TSA agents leave…
they all leave…
but us.

There was however a little restaurant / bar upstairs where we could sit
for a spell, having a bite of supper.

We put the things we did have in the rental car,
a car that reeked like a giant ash tray,
and came back into the airport in order to camp out for the near 6 hour wait.

We opted to make our way upstairs, and ordered a typical
Michigan whitefish dinner…which was actually quite tasty.
There was a nice family sitting next to us who couldn’t help
but hear our accents.
Southern accents oddly stick out like a sore thumb everywhere
but in the South.

When this family had finished with their meal,
as this is about the only restaurant / bar available in this small town,
they made their way to our table to ask where we were from and what had
brought us to their neck of the woods.

We explained about our trip and then about our luggage.
They offered suggestions for our various destinations and were most
kind and welcoming.

Once we said our goodbyes, we went back to our whitefish.

Just a few minutes later the wife came back into the restaurant
making a beeline for our table….
excusing herself for appearing to be stalking us but that she had a sense
from God that she was to pray for us and asked for our names.

“Wow!!” I thought as now happy tears entered my eyes.

Long story…we finally got to the hotel in Canada at almost 1 AM.
No sleep as we were up and going at 5AM readying to get to the train station
for the 7AM departure.

12 hours of riding a train through the rocks and woods with nary a view
or vista.

Once to the canyon, everyone clambered out to enjoy the hour and a half of
exploring and picnicking.

The one glitch being that the passengers were not informed that the
mosquitoes and gants would be swarming horrendously,
so much so that folks practically trampled over one another getting back on
the train in order to wait until beginning the 6 hour descent back to town
through the same rocks and trees.
Did I mention the tons of goose poop?

There was much itching, scratching and silence…
most folks slept all the way back to town.

We eventually reached what was to be the best part of the trip,
Mackinac Island.

A marvelous place of a life without motors…
a place of only bicycles, 600 resident work horses and lots of feet.

The only issue is that this small island is inundated with tourists from the
mainland throughout the entire summer season.
My husband quipped that from all the arriving ferries and tourists,
it was a wonder the island didn’t sink.

The staff at the hotel we were to spend our time were all young,
foreign and kept reminding me of the youthful staff at Disney–
a strange sea of constantly smiling international faces whose english was
halting and who were a little hard to understand.

I proceeded to check us in.

“Mam we have you arriving today and checking out in two days.”
“Well no, we’re actually checking out in three days.”
“Okay mam, whatever you say,
but it is on the 7th that we have you checking out.”
“No, we’re checking out on the 8th, see….”

And that’s when I saw my mistake.

Panic gripped my entire being.
“Do you have another night’s room available? I asked as I tried to
contain the rising hysteria.
“I will put you on the waiting list Mam but we are very full” this all said
with a great big smile to a woman who was about to reach critical mass.

In all my years of plotting and planning trips, adventures, outings…
From all my years of teaching and making certain that every last detail
was on schedule and secure…
how, of all times, had I failed to cross check these dates???!

I felt the hot tears building in my eyes.
This while my very hard of hearing husband kept asking me what the girl,
he couldn’t understand, was saying…back and forth I went from the smiling
hard to understand girl to my hard of hearing not smiling husband.

The tears in my eyes and my very red cheeks tipped him off that the
conversation was not good.

I turned to my husband, as I thought I would now throw up, and practically
shrieked that the island was so crowded, we’d never find a room…
panicking and practically wailing I announced we should just go home…
as in now…..

My poor husband calmed me down as best he could…
this from a man who is not known for calm or patience…
He suggested we wander back down to town to find a bite of lunch,
as we wait for the room to be readied allowing us time to regroup.

I had tried so hard to make things perfect for him, for us,
as this was one of those a big deals that I tend to take way too seriously.
We had worked so very hard and had gotten through so very much
just to be able to actually now try and get away and forget life’s worries
for just a few days—
only to have it turn into one misadventure right after another…
as I was now just about overwhelmed by every misadventure.

All of this was now making it very difficult for me to breathe
let alone concentrate.

So here is where we’ll break off until tomorrow…
Hang on cause there’s more to come and the best part will be worth the wait….

bats in the belfry

“The devil gets up to the belfry by the vicar’s skirts”
Thomas Fuller

“If our condition were truly happy, we would not seek diversion from it
in order to make ourselves happy”

Blaise Pascal

8065436450_80c05623a1
(a surreal image borrowed from the web)

Let’s deviate today to a little humor shall we…
obviously from this tale, it has been needed…

Growing up I attended the Cathedral of St Philip…
the Episcopal Cathedral in Atlanta.
“St Phil on the hill,” as it has always been lovingly called by both member and local Atlantan alike,
has sat perched atop this particualr hill in Atlanta, acting as a sentinel and beckoning lighthouse looking out majestically over Peachtree road toward downtown Atlanta, since 1960…
The current very English, very Anglican gothic church replaced a small gray stone church that had moved to the present location in 1933 with the original St Philip having been erected in downtown Atlanta in 1848.

At the time, to my youthful mind, this church of mine, with that towering bell tower,
sans any bells, had to be full of bats, right?

When I was in high school and active in the youth group there at the Cathedral, a group of us decided to dub ourselves The Bats in the Belfry, or BITB for short.
Our hijinks and innocent shenanigans were well known to the reigning clergy at the time as we would often decorate the parking lot and various rooms, offices and the parsonage late at night..
or we’d leave little notes, balloons, confetti in and around the church grounds proclaiming our nighttime presence at church.
Given what we could have been doing during those disco psychedelic days of the early 70’s, I think the clergy was more than grateful that we wanted to “hang out” on church property….

ls
(The Cathedral of St Philip / Atlanta, Georgia)

It became a personal quest of ours to figure out how to climb up to the bell tower,
up to the very tip top…as bats always needed their bell towers…

To finally put to rest our / my persistent clambering about the bellower, bats and why were there no bells in a church bell tower, one of the priests, with permission of his superior, my godfather the then acting dean of the Cathedral, took us on a late afternoon climb. A feat most likely impossible today given insurance regulations and safety codes…
but this was in the good ol days of ignorance….

We had to climb up a back set of stairs leading to the back upper choir loft…next through a hidden door in the paneled wall leading to the organ pipes for the small adjacent chapel.
Then it was through another hidden door in the rich wooden panelling into a tall narrow opening complete with metal ladder welded to the long shaft.
Upon climbing the ladder we reached another metal door attached to the stone wall that our priest and guide had to unlock with a key

Finally clamoring out of the shaft we found ourselves standing in the vastly
expansive and very empty bell tower itself.
But our journey was not yet over.
Along one wall of the bell tower was another long ascending metal ladder.
Briefly forgetting my fear of heights, one by one, we began climbing upward.
At the top of the ladder, high above the floor of the empty bell tower,
we reached once again another metal door.
As our priest and guide unlocked this final door,
our motley crew emerged out into the balmy Atlanta night sky.

We had finally reached our destination.
The very tip top of the Cathedral’s towering bell tower—
as we were rewarded with a beautiful vista of a 1970’s something glistening skyline of Atlanta…

Now let us fast forward 40 years or so to last night in my den.

You remember that story from a week or so ago about the bat right?

The bat that decided to make my back deck his daytime bedroom?
The post retelling how I had to wait for the bat fly out in search of a nighttime meal..
all the while as I sprayed said bedroom with hornet spray…
just so he’d decide not to come back….

Well it worked.
He didn’t come back.

So back to last night…
Here it was, about 10:30 PM last night…
My husband was dozing sweetly in his recliner,
as I was perched on the couch watching football…
One cat nestled placidly on my lap as the other lounged on the back of the couch.

I was in mid debate as to whether or not I should head to the shower and then off to bed…
as it had been a very long day with Dad and the CT scans and our son’s apartment….
when suddenly Percy,
my oh so faithful watch cat,
swivels around in my lap, cocking his head upward at a 90 degree angle.

Thinking he’s spotted an errant wasp that often escapes from the fireplace having come down the chimney,
I cast my gaze upward.

Our’s is a den with a cathedral ceiling…with a brick fireplace and chimney that reaches the
full height of the room.
Way up on the top where brick meets moulding sat a brown object…
hunkered up tightly between brick and moulding

Immediately I hear a familiar voice screaming
“GREGORY THERE IS A BAT!!!!!!!!!!!”
as in it was my voice…

My husband who has now been jolted from his peaceful snore-laddened slumber,
thinks there’s been a home invasion or the start of WWIII…
He jumps up looking for intruder or war…

“IT’S A BAT!!!!!!”

What???

Are you sure???

“HELL YES I”M SURE!!!!!!”

This as I’m scooping up two wide eyed cats and throwing them in the bedroom slaming shut the door,
keeping them locked away from what I’m assuming is rabies with wings gracing my den….

DO SOMETHING!!!!!!

I hear myself scream as my husband just stands there mumbling something about
“how in the world did that get in here?”

Whereas I am not concerned with the hows of the moment,
I am however more concerned with rabies and parasites and bacteria, and poop,
and sharp little teeth flying down on my head.

I flip on every light in the house—they hate light right?

I’M GETTING THE HORNET SPRAY”
I hear myself shout.

No you’re not!
You’re not spraying a can of poison all in the house.

“BUT IT SHOOTS 20ft”
I again hear myself scream.

GUN!!!! GET A GUN!!!!!!
again with the out of body screaming.

“Gun?”

“Shoot it in the house?”
I hear my incredulous husband ask.

“HELL YES”
I continue hearing panic controlling the situation as I think we are all
about to have to endure $50,000 rounds of rabies shots that insurance will not cover.

My husband goes to the basement to find my grandfather’s century old 22 rifle
while I grab two crab nets…
You know the nets used to grab crabs…

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(yours truly a couple of summers ago at the beach examining my crab net)

I also grab the BB gun…just incase.
I did teach riflery at a girl’s summer camp 100 years ago….

My husband climbs the stairs to our second floor where he positions himself,
with trusty century old gun, up against the opening to the den below
in order to steady his shot.
He is now just slightly below said bat…yet at a slight distance.

This is were the PETA folks must turn away—
if there had been any other alternative,
I would have sought it as I don’t like hurting any living creature—
but the thought of bats and rabies in my house with both my husband, me and our cats…
left no other recourse….

BAM

mortar shards shoot outward as a brown lump drops like a brick to the floor below.

THUD

AAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
I hear coming from somewhere out of my mouth….

My husband yells for me to throw the net over it.

I survey the victim and it appears to be sufficiently deceased.

My husband scoops it up using my two nets asking where I want it.

Are you freaking kidding me????

OUTSIDE!!!!!

Take it outside to the other side of the driveway in the grass at the pasture.
I can carry it off to the woods tomorrow or maybe a coyote will find it tonight.

What about your nets? my husband asks.

I’ll spray them with Clorox and leave them out ’till morning.

So…..

Early this morning, as my husband was about to leave for work, we walk over to where
the body of the victim was to be found…
yet, we find nothing.

My nets were still sitting in the driveway but there was no body, there is no bat.

“I bet he flew away” I hear my husband grouse.
“No, no” I counter, that thing was dead as a hammer.

As my husband goes to get in his truck, I amble over to the side of the driveway
to take a gander over at my lone potted tomato bush when something wiggling
by the side of the house in the pine straw catches my eye.

“GREGORY ITS THE BAT!!!!!!!!”
I hear myself scream.

Bless its heart, that bat scampered 50 feet from one side of the yard all the way back to the house….
and was now baring its fangs at me.

“GET THE NETS!!!!!”

I hear myself scream.

“Knock it in the head” I hear my husband holler.

Knock it in the head????
Are you freaking kidding me?
It’s not a bug!!
I’m not about to club anything in the head.
That would be cold blooded murder….
Oh…
Wait,
I think we already tried that murder thing.

I scoop up the bat gingerly into the two nets as my husband readies a box.
My head is turned as not to see this unsightly sight.
I throw bat and both nets into the box and slam the top shut.

“What about your nets?” my husband asks.
“I don’t want them…”
“Now will you please take this box, bat and nets to the dump” I hear myself calmly demand.

This as I now wonder how I ever had such a fascination for bats….
as find myself somewhat relieved for this latest slight diversion to my otherwise crazy life….

compartmentalized

“…what you don’t believe strongly enough to teach doesn’t do you any good.”
A.W. Tozer

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(Bonaventure Cemetery , Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

Here’s the thing…
The thing about us…
Those of us who profess to be Christians…

We have a penchant for keeping our little worlds nice and tidy.

We lean our preferences to keeping things neat and overtly orderly.
We don’t like to mix things up too much.
And we really prefer keeping our church life, well, at church.

Oh we might give to that homeless beggar whose path we cross as we’re headed here and there.
We might reluctantly serve on this or that committee.
We’ll send in that monthly tithe check to the church…
a little tax write off you know guised in the form of a “donation”
We’ll take the kids to the Wednesday night pot luck or the occasional youth group gathering.

Chances are our daily conversations with colleagues and friends has us talking about what happened last night on…
The Batchelor…
What sort of Oscar shindig will we be putting together…
Or…that we actually can’t believe who got kicked off American Idol, The Voice, Dancing With The Stars or of that so called Island…

Sundays’ Gospel lesson or that killer line from the sermon most likely isn’t causing our tongues to wag as we simply don’t have that same sort of zeal to share those amazing moments as we do the more trival….for if the truth be known, we can’t much remember what last Sunday’s sermon was about, or what verse we even read this morning during our wee hour devotional or we can’t exactly really recall the last time we prayed…I’m talking really prayed.
Not the rote Lord’s prayer…not grace at a meal—I’m talking down on your knees, head bowed before an amazing Omnipotent Creator sort of prayed….

This is because we, those of us living in this western civilization of ours, tend to compartmentalize our lives.
Each and everything in our little world(s) has it’s place.
There is the social side of our lives, the school side, the business side, the serious side, the “religious” side, the fun side…
every aspect has it’s place…
and some of those aspects are only afford a limited amount of playing time.

That’s why when we read such news stories such as yesterday’s coverage that Iran is paying the families of its martyrs, those who have died while raging some sort of havoc (aka jihad) on Israel a nice $7000. equivalent for the “sacrifice” of their loved ones in the name of all things Iranian and Muslim…
as it seems that that recent US billions of dollars gift is now being put to good use….

Yet that sort of story just passes over our consciousness for the brief moment as our eyes quickly scan to the next headline…moving on to reading the more pressing latest weather updates.

We don’t see a correlation between our neat little compartmentalized worlds and the constant torment of Israel by the Muslim world as being relevant. We don’t recall God’s word about the Christian responsibility of honoring Israel.
We rationalize that’s over there.
That’s their business, not ours and if the truth be told,
we don’t really care for how they do their business.
We think “leave well enough alone…you live your life, let them live theirs as we live ours…”
simple as that.

We’ve forgotten that little parable that Jesus told of the vineyard (Matthew 21:33-46).
You remember…
You know that little story of the “bad” tenants who schemed to milk the landowner for all he was worth… eventually, after having beaten and killed the landowners representatives, they in turn thrashed, beat and killed the owners own son…thinking that would force the landowners hand in their favor…
And do you remember how Jesus then went on to explain that it, the land of inheritance (aka the vineyard), will all be taken away form the ungrateful ones (i.e. the ungrateful, unfruitful nation) and given to a different more grateful group (i.e.the grateful fruitful nation)—one that actually honors what it has been given—the nation that heeds to the word of God—

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Matthew 21:43-44)

Kind of like us today in the US…as we no longer heed God’s word as Sovereign…and the thing is, very few who call themselves Christians care to speak up…speaking up about our responsibilities as Christians…let alone taking on those very responsibilities and living them out with unabashed enthusiasm.

Compartmentalized verses the truth of Salvation…hummmmm

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
Romans 1:16

conkers any one?

The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him: the fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty.
Ezekiel 31:8

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(a horse chestnut tree with ripening “conkers” outside of Ross Castle, County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.’”
Exodus 14:13-14

The ancient texts of an ancient time long gone, yellowed, dusty and worn, tells its readers of the promises of a mighty God to His people.
There is an ad infinitum quality and authority to these venerable Words..
As in these Words have been and always will be offered as they are.

They are words of Promises made, never broken.
The story is the same…
Promises made, never broken, on and on…
Over and over these promises are proclaimed…
Made to a people who, time and time again, believe for a short time and just as quickly apparently “un” believe.

The inevitable question in the mind of anyone reading these words and these tales is…
Why?
Why does or would this mighty God continue promising and delivering over and over again
to a people who briefly believe and just as quickly stop believing?

This casual observer or reader must wonder about this whole sort of situation,
and at first thought it probably seems senseless, almost stupid.
Dare we say, pitiful, sad, pathetic…

Why should a Being, a deity identified as the One true God, continue over and over
offering Himself, His concern, His interaction, His interjection, His promises to a people who seem ungrateful, uncaring and often unaccepting…

When it dawns on our casual reader and peruser of this particular and peculiar tome…
The single word unconditional enters the mind…
As in no conditions…
As in an absolute…
As in spoken with authority…
As in there are no boundaries or limits….
As in it is ever reaching and ever lasting…

It is, to the observer, especially a modern day observer who is accustomed to the broken promises and empty words lavished upon the masses by governmental leaders, corporate giants, and the average individual to individual as…well in a word…unbelievable.

At first our observer scoffs at such.
Shrugging off this unending and seemingly eternal Promise business as sheer rubbish.
So difficult to wrap one’s thoughts and comprehension around…
Yet as he continues reading and seeing the same sort of pattern, throughout each component of each story, something of the realness and magnitude of truth begins to nag at his mind and his heart.

There was a bond…
then a promise
then a broken heart….
A promise
A bond
A broken heart…

and so the story goes….

The Promise continues, never stopping, never being broken.
Yet the heart continues being broken, daily

Odd that….

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 1:20