conspiracies

Whenever you’re faced with an explanation of what’s going on in Washington,
the choice between incompetence and conspiracy,
always choose incompetence.

Charles Krauthammer


(the severed peach leaves / Julie Cook / 2017)


(a once spritely spry apple tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

Well there has certainly been a bunch of mumbo jumbo out there lately over conspiracy theories
and those responsible instigators…those troublesome clandestine conspiracy theorists.
Because isn’t it is because of “them”, whoever the thems are,
that all of this shadowy pandemonium get’s its base to begin with??

But I’m digressing here as I need to address my own conspiracy theory…

You may remember a couple of weeks back when I posted a picture of a ripening apple we
had growing on one of the four apple trees?
For whatever reason….I’ve never had much luck growing apples nor
my peaches for that matter.
But this year I was really hopeful.

We had two apples on one of the four apple trees and one of the four peach trees was
loaded with about 11 little growing golf ball size peaches.
Maybe this was going to be my year…

So the other evening after my gentleman farmer of a husband had conducted his evening overseeing
of the 50 green Q-tips, aka, pecan trees,
he naturally rounded out the inspection with the fruit trees.

Once inside he summoned me to come see the trees.

“Why?” I hesitantly asked.
“Something has happened” he replied a bit alarmed.
“What do you mean something happened?” I countered.
“Because something happened, OK! Something has shredded the trees!”
“Huh?”
“SOMETHING has practically destroyed the trees!!!

and so naturally I dutifully follow my alarmed husband out the door…
now equally as alarmed.

“See this” he most defiantly lifts one of many sheared off tiny limbs
to one of the apple trees.
“And look at your peach trees….!!”

Sure enough….devastation.
But not devastation as in the deer ate off the leaves again.
This looked like someone had more or less taken a weed whacker to the poor trees.

Now we have had problems in the past with male deer who, when coming out of the velvet,
meaning when it’s the season that they start rubbing on anything and everything just
to get the fuzzy summer growth or “velvet” off of their forming antlers…..
but this isn’t the time yet for such as the horns are just now starting to grow.


(detail of a deer’s antler shedding the velvet, courtesy Dannerholz Whitetails)

So something else is to blame for this devastation….but what??

Now we have been told by reliable sources from those deer hunters who have been deep in the woods
behind our property that they have actually seen two black bears.

And it certainly is not uncommon for the Atlanta news to report on bears in suburban Atlanta
neighborhoods having migrated down from their normal habitat in the north Georgia mountains.
Plus it is not uncommon for the bears of middle and south Georgia to migrate northward—
all due in part to the bears natural habitats shrinking coupled by last year’s drought
which has sent hungry bears in search of food.


(youtube image of a mom black bear and her cubs wandering an Atlanta neighborhood)

Ok so I could see a bear deciding to decimate my fruit trees but there is another more
bizarre theory being tossed around out there that’s been floating around
ever since we bought the property and built our house.

Something strange and a little frightening.
Something of legend and lore….

Shortly after we were settled into our house, almost 20 years ago now,
I held a yard sale as we needed to lighten the load of having moved a lifetime
from one house to another.
And by the way, that was our first and last yard sale because my husband was none to keen having
folks park all over his new grass…but I digress….

So as the day was waning and the influx of shoppers was also waning,
a rather odd older woman wandered into our midsts.
I didn’t see her pull up in a car, so I wasn’t real certain where she’d come from.

She walked up to me and asked if I was the one who lived in the house as I politely
replied that yes I did.
She informed me that she lived down the road a ways, down near the creek.
The road past our house turns from neighborhoods and houses to pastures, woods,
cows, chickens, creeks, deers and more desolate than habitable.

This odd little visitor proceeded to tell me a rather interesting tale.

She told me not to be surprised if I should hear, see or even smell something strange
near our house…do not be surprised should I see something large wandering through the
fields or skirting near the edge of the woods.

Well I don’t know if you’ve ever had a yard sale, but you can certainly see, hear and even
smell that which is strange in the way of “shoppers”….just saying.

She told me that on several occasions her dogs would be barking wildly at night-
howling while desperately wanting in the house.
She’d go out to inspect the commotion only to be hit by an overwhelming, powerful
and horrendous odor.
And no, we’re not talking skunk or a dead possum or armadillo—
just an overwhelming stench.

Then one night, once again alerted by the dogs, she raced out of the house…
and this time she actually saw it….or actually a glimpse of it…
Just running back into the woods…a dark giant and very smelly ape like thing…

She then added that her dogs have remained scared to death ever since never wanting
to be out in the yard alone….

hummmmmmm……
Sasquatch…
Bigfoot….is that one word or two?


(youtube clip of a sighting in Georgia…..)

And so now on any late evening, or in the light of day for that matter,
when I’m out in the yard doing those things that I do in the yard…
and I catch a whiff of something odd…or hear something rustling in the overgrown field,
or catch an odd shadow along the edge of the woods,
I wonder…..

So there you have it—
something destroyed my fruit trees….while the question remains..
what….

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.
He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears,
and he will tell you what is yet to come.

1 John 16:13

high roads

“The high road is something very, very long, of which one cannot see
the end – like human life, like human dreams.
There is an idea in the open road,
but what sort of idea is there in travelling with posting tickets?
Posting tickets mean an end to ideas.
Vive la grande route and then as God wills.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky


(on the road to Crater Lake, Oregon / Julie Cook / 2013)

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because it is becoming more and more a road less traveled.

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because our mothers, fathers, grandparents, teachers once told us to.

Why should we opt to take the high road in life?

Because taking the high road never means that we’re better than anyone else,
it just means that we’re working that much harder at bettering ourselves.

The high road is a more difficult climb.
The high road is much harder to traverse.
The high road will push us to our limits.
The high road is what we want our children to take.

Yet the high road takers are most often scoffed at by those on the lower roads.
The high road takers are most often forgotten by those on the lower roads.
Because the high road is often very lonely…

Yet the examples of those low road moments are far too numerous these days…

A most recent example was just the other day when a senator from New York was
addressing a crowd at New York University and opted to use her time with a
captive young audience by offering a profanity laced speech about the current
President.
The F word was front and center throughout her speech…
as she flippantly told the crowd that
“it’s okay, because this is a younger audience.”

No, Madame Senator that doesn’t make it ok for you to be lazy with your
choice of words in order to simply make an impact, to shock or garner generational points.
It does not make it okay for you to be trite, foul, offensive,
or seemingly one with your more impressionable audience.
For by taking this lower road, this easier road, you insult the intelligence
of your audience by opting to lower yourself and your standards by dumbing down your
address.

It is never okay to season a delivery with profanity because by doing so
cheapens ones words and ones true meaning.
It is a delivery of less than rather than of real substance

It is to those sound adults who these youthful ones must look as they seek examples
of what they should aspire to emulate.
Examples of grace, dignity, restraint, humility are much more preferable to anger,
crudeness, bitterness as well as a lack of decorum and respect.

Because it takes very little effort and is exceedingly easy to simply drop one’s
self lower rather than exerting the necessary energy to raise everyone else up.
And in so doing a disservice is done to everyone.
Because opting to take the lower road is in actuality a thinly veiled self serving act.

As that is exactly what we are witnessing—a society that prefers to go lower rather
than higher…because it’s the easiest path of the perceived least resistance.

So why should we opt to that higher road?
For it is the high road that helps us to reach our fullest potential as a human being.
And in so doing by taking that higher road,
we do so while following Christ as he carries his cross up the hill of Golgotha.

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

Psalm 15

ok

Everything’s gonna be alright
Nothing left, but love’s in sight
Everything’s gonna be alright now
Everything’s gonna be alright
It’s gonna be alright

Lyrics by England Dan and John Ford Coley


(sign at Spruill art gallery / Dunwoody, Ga / courtesy the web)

We drove over to the northern Atlanta suburb city of Dunwoody yesterday afternoon.
My cousin’s wife, who is retiring after 41 years of teaching—high school math of all things,
was the focus of a little retirement shindig.

It had been years since I’d been to that area north of Atlanta.
So much growth and so much congestion…
I can remember when the area was nothing more than a sleepy little northern hamlet…
an area more accustomed to farms and cows than to high-end restaurants and shopping malls.

Change is inevitable I suppose…
progress so they say….

If you’re anything like me, these past several months have left you feeling….
well anxious…
and if the truth be told, you’re anxious without even realizing how truly anxious you really are.
It seems as if there’s just been an unsettling that has completely settled over our lives.

Unless you are an Orthodox monk living on Mt Athos or a Buddhist monk living in some
lost to time nook in Tibet, you have been overloaded with the caustic vehemence that
most of the world is currently hurling back and forth on itself…
so much so without even realizing just how overloaded by it all you’ve become….

It’s troubling for even the most grounded among us.

It’s been sad, depressing, agitating, frightening and even alarming.

And even if you’ve sworn off watching the news….
the heaviness is so pervasive that it has permeated deeply into not only our nation,
but it has saturated most of the greater free world.

Priorities are so screwed up that it leaves the more concerned among us wondering what
it is we can do in our own little corners of the world to makes things better, brighter,
softer, kinder and simply more sane…

So there I was driving home, following the afternoon’s celebration,
making our way back to the interstate when I spotted, with my periphery vision, the sign…

A large plain black and white painted sign on the side of an old barn….
a quaint old barn that is obviously a preserved and last standing vestige to the original
structures that once called this now uber urban city a rural country home.

“Everything will be ok”

I had to do a quick double take back to my left while focusing on getting through the
congested intersection just to make certain I had read correctly.

It was as if some wonderful paternal unseen force…
a force that was greater than anything in the world at just that very moment
had gently, soothingly and yet very matter of factly stated for all the world….
Everything is going to ok…

And so it shall be….

In you, Father all-mighty,
we have our preservation and our bliss.
In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving.
You are our mother, brother, and Saviour.
In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvellous and plenteous grace.
You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us.
You are our maker, our lover, our keeper.
Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well.
Amen

St Julian of Norwich

(A link to a nice little article about the barn and the inception of the sign
http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2016/05/26/everything-going-ok-dunwoodys-spruill-gallery/?utm_source=Reporter+Newspapers+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=b542a61cbf-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_DUN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dbd6e0112e-b542a61cbf-407315065)

Newsflash

“Merely having an open mind is nothing; the object of opening the mind,
as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

G.K. Chesterton


(the sole remaining apple as the deer ate the other one / Julie Cook / 2017)

On Wednesday there was a confrontation.
The confrontation being just one more bizarre piece to an already bizarre and crazy puzzle
that seems to be continually playing out now daily in our lives.

Sigh.

There was a senate confirmation hearing for the position of deputy director of the
White House Office of Management and Budget.
Now that doesn’t sound like a fun job to me but I suppose someone has got to do it and
what a good thing that there are those who want to do so…..

The fellow up for the post is Russell Vought, President’s Trump’s nominee…
who just so happens to be a practicing Christian.
Meaning, Mr Vought is committed to his faith and tries to live his life accordingly.

This seems to be problematic for Senator Bernie Sanders who maliciously grilled
the nominee over, not his competency for the position but rather of all things, his faith.

It seems that Mr. Sanders does not believe that someone who holds the belief that
Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation is competent to hold office.

Last I checked that was pretty much the primary tenant to Christianity…
and Christians have been holding all kinds of posts and jobs since the
formation of this nation of ours with little to no issue over salvation….

The exchange on Mr. Sander’s part was exceedingly heated…even caustic…
culminating in a rant.
However for his part, Mr Vought maintained his position throughout the exchange
in a calm, respectful and dignified manner.

The following link is the story recap to the event:

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/06/09/bernie-sanders-attacks-trump-nominee-for-following-teachings-christ.html

So just when I thought that maybe, just maybe, the country…meaning the news media,
the politicians, the lawmakers, the “leaders”, the followers… could all just finally get
back to the business of simply running the country, reporting on real news and simply
getting back to the task of living so that the rest of us could do the same…

here comes Senator Bernie Sanders who is appalled that Christians think that the only way
to salvation is through Jesus Christ…

Newsflash Senator….they’ve been thinking that way for the past 2000 years….

because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart
that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.
For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his
lips and so is saved.

Romans 9:9-10

paradoxes

“The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement.
But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”

Niels Bohr


(wild morning glory deep in the Georgia woods / Julie Cook / 2017)

Paradox: a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition
that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.

My intent was to have written about something else today…
but as God often places something in
my way forcing my hand or forcing my change in direction,
there was no getting around the change
in thought.

My first thought was to talk a little about yesterdays’ brouhaha…
that current national obsession that was playing out on every television channel or news outlet
such that there was an actual news story, I believe it was true but who knows anymore, that
bars in D.C. opened up for a morning run providing a watering hole venue for folks to line up and come watch the hearing
(I should say the Comey hearing but’I’m actually sick and tired of hearing the fellow’s name…
as the nation’s obsession is not my own)

The news camera panned the bar—jam packed full with folks,
some who admittedly were ditching work, happily imbibing…
For others, who knows why hanging out watching television in a bar on a Thursday morning
seems productive…yet perhaps I should not be surprised to see so many youthful ones
who obviously have no where to be at 9:30 on a Thursday morning in the Nation’s capital
but I suppose I digress.

Then my second thought was to offer an observation also from yesterday.
The UK had a big election yesterday…an election for a possible new PM and new government.
I think that sort of thing ranks up there with our own election as these first cousin nations
are that important to one another…
However, when I went to read the BBC on-line the most front and center news story was not the
UK’s own election but what was happening in the US with the hearing.

I first clicked on the world news…the US shenanigans was the lead story
I then clicked on European news, again, the UK election was not the lead story
I next clicked on UK news…the lead story was not so much election outcome as it was
other matters which danced around what was to be the outcome….

How can the BBC put off their own election…
the story of a leading global power’s election while
opting to focus on the American hysteria?

Thirdly I thought I’d write about the story of the small Missouri town that has had a
60 foot cross donning the center of their town square since the 1930’s.
For the past 87 years this small Missouri town has held every Easter sunrise service
at the base of this cross, in this city’s central park, since
the time the cross was first erected.

The mayor recently received a letter from an out of town atheist and freethinking
organization that has threatened the town with legal action if the cross
is not removed.
Up until the arrival of this letter, the town has never had a single complaint
regarding the cross.

The group who sent the letter claim that this cross is in
direct violation with a separation of church and state and will sue the town
if it is not removed.

The mayor and city council has responded…the cross will stay.

So whereas I had a good bit I wanted to chat about and share…
there was another story that seemed to trump (there’s that word again)
all other stories as it is a story that should give every last one of us pause before
we continue with the important things that we seem to think are so utterly important….

Things such as watching hearings, standing in long lines in order to drink and indulge
while ditching work in order to sit and watch said hearing…
a hearing that was really much to do about nothing,
while others write threatening letters, while even others of us concern ourselves with
matters that truly pale in comparison to the bigger issues of life, living and dying.

Two day’s ago, a church bus was enroute from Huntsville, Alabama to Atlanta’s airport.
The bus was full of young people, high schoolers and their leaders, who were preparing
to fly out to Botswana in order to spend time working with children there in Africa.
A little more noble effort then hanging out drinking and watching TV…but who
am I to say…

It was mid day and the sun was shining…a low humidity Chamber of Commerce kind of
Georgia day.
The church bus was less then five miles from the airport when tragedy stuck.
There was a lane change with the bus having to overcorrect after striking a car in the
adjacent lane.
The overcorrection forced the bus into the medium, flipping it upside down while it
then fell in the path of the opposite lane’s traffic, where it was hit again.

Both directions of Camp Creek Parkway, the road leading directly into the airport,
were closed as a 17 year old young girl was killed and 21 other were injured,
some seriously.

“Life changes so rapidly on us, you know?
One moment, things are fine.
The next moment you’re dealing with things like this.
It’s just tough,” Fulton County Fire Chief Larry Few said.

The young girl’s family shared her picture with Atlanta’s Channel 2 news and offered a
few words about their daughter.

And she loved the Lord with a love that was tangible,” Harmening’s mother said.
“It’s what she lived and breathed for.”

Sarah’s mother read her last journal entry on the bus and said it gives her comfort.

“That God has called me here and he has done this for a reason,
so I know he’s going to do incredible things,” her mother read.

A friend shared some of the final words Harmening….

“This is such a great reminder; we are like a wisp of smoke.
We are only here for a moment and it’s not about us, life is not about us,
it’s about God,” said Harmening’s friend Claire.

So whereas I thought I had some things I wanted to share or discuss or focus on—
It seems as if they weren’t nearly as important as I had thought….

Because there is much wisdom found in the words of one’s friend who reflects on the
loss of a young life….

For none of this thing we call life is really about us now is it…..

Jesus said to her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.
Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26

seeking and hiding

“In moments of exaltation one expressed sentiments that outstripped
one’s spiritual capabilities by a vast span; and she knew well that
unless God is sought for Himself alone, with a selflessness
of which she was at present incapable,
He is not to be found.”

― Elizabeth Goudge


(wild blackberries are ripening deep in the Georgia woods / Julie Cook / 2017)


(the ripening blueberries bushes out back in the yard / Julie Cook / 2017)

I go to great lengths when it comes to seeking out, and subsequently picking,
those glistening seasonal black and blue ripening gems…
those succulent orbs and globes of juicy blueberries and now
the incoming crop of wild blackberries.

I have been known to go to near daredevil feats in order to fill a basket, bowl or bag
with these precious little beauties.
I have braved chiggers, ticks, snakes…as well as bleeding to death due to digging deep
into the proverbial briar patch.

This obsessiveness over berry picking worries my husband.

He seems to believe that I do not possess the gift of lithe or grace when it comes to say,
walking…let alone standing on my head while reaching deep into a thicket of the unknown
in search of the elusive black or blue jewel.

I think it comes down to the fact that he’s going to hold that broken ankle business
against me for the rest of my non broken life.
It wasn’t my fault I fell in a drain hole while putting out the pine straw that spring…
a hole he’d dug out just days prior and failed to fill back in before I stepped in it.

So when I must balance on a narrow brick wall,
while leaning over as far as I can with one foot planted on the ledge while
the other leg is sticking straight out behind me in some sort of yoga like pose…
all the while as I’m reaching as far as I can
without face planting into a mass jumble of branches,
fruit and leaves…
well, I don’t know what the fuss and worry is all about.

I mean, I watch for the snakes, bees and ants.
I try my best not to fall, really I do.
I can’t help that I’ll be covered with red whelps the following day that will itch like
nobody’s business…
I can’t help that I scream the word “STOP!!” when we’re happily and quietly driving down
a road in the middle of nowhere when I suddenly spot a lovely ripening bramble bush
along the side of said deserted road… beckoning to be picked.
He likes the pies and cobblers…so what’s all the the big worry???

So naturally while I was reaching and digging deep buried up to my elbows in stickers,
all during the throws of my berry seeking session yesterday,
oh so busy about the task of finding and picking…
I was stuck by a startlingly similarity between my hyper focused quest in seeking
the elusive hiding fruits—the object of an almost obsessive determination, and
the lengths to which I know God goes when He wants, nay yearns, to seek out and
eventually find….us….

As we have the tendency to hide, always painstakingly out of arms reach…and
yet a loving God painstakingly seeks his own…
for He will go to even much greater and even more daring lengths in His quest for us
than dare say I do over a mere berry….

And boy how grateful I am that He does!

I will seek that which was lost,
and bring again that which was driven away,
and will bind up that which was broken,
and will strengthen that which was sick:
but I will destroy the fat and the strong;
I will feed them with judgment.

Ezekiel 34:16

what they really mean

“Socialists cry ‘Power to the people’,
and raise the clenched fist as they say it.

We all know what they really mean——
power over people, power to the State.”

Margaret Thatcher,
Speech to Conservative Central Council, March 1986

“If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning:
just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes,
we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

C.S. Lewis


(a buckeye butterfly enjoys a sunny day / Julie Cook / 2017)

I wonder if anyone really knows what anyone really means anymore.

Our leaders, politicians, statesmen, media personalities, legal eagles, entertainers…
none of them seem to know what they mean anymore…
simply because they’re always apologizing or deferring or deflecting these days.

The headlines splash across our eyes daily with the current mea culpas turned defense…
“I didn’t mean it”
“That’s not what I meant”
“My attorney won’t let me answer that”
“That was just a joke taken the wrong way”
“I didn’t say that”
“That wasn’t me”
“This has all been blown out of proportion”
“You heard wrong”
“You took that out of context”
“The devil made me do it / say it”
“The sky is falling… uh, just kidding….”

It’s all fun and games until there’s a push back, a backlash or a pure revolt….
Then the last laugh is no longer on the targeted but rather is now turned back around
to the one who was attempting to initiate the laughs, or the claims,
or the accusations in the first place.

And within all the mea culpas comes the deferments, the denials, the deflections,
the blind eyes…
as in…
“well, that wasn’t even my idea”
“he, she, it made me do it”
“I have no recollection of that”
“I didn’t do that, say that.. but rather he, she, it did”
“I plead the 5th…the 1st, the 2nd, the 3rd and whatever else I can plead….”
“No habla inglés, or suddenly any other language for that matter…
“Who me?”
“I wasn’t even in the country”

The list is endless.

And hidden within the denials, the confusion, the lies, the excuses
is the anger, the rage and the resentment…
of the “how dare you not think me funny, factual, fair…”
“how dare you not think I wasn’t joking”
“how dare you take what I said / did the wrong way”
“how dare you, be you, who now makes me look bad / feel bad”

Actually it’s all really confusing because not only do we not know what
“they” mean anymore…we’re being told that we no longer know what we mean…
as what we thought we believed and knew to be true…is nothing but an illusion
of what we once knew…

The only meaning that has stood the test of time, the test of man….
despite man’s best attempts to alter it, change it, rewrite it, deny it, ignore it…

God’s word…..

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword,
piercing to the division of soul and spirit,
of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12