warm weather color

“Mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form,
can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.”

Oscar Wilde


(goldfinch / Julie Cook / 2021)


(purple Iris /Julie Cook / 2021)


(daisy’s / Julie Cook / 2021)


(gardina–a southern classic / Julie Cook / 2021)


(purple aster / Julie Cook /2021)


(Sunflower…all pics taken from my daily walks or backyard / Julie Cook / 2021)

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—
and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.

Ephesians 5:13

Memorial Day 2021

“But freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.
We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream.
The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if
we fight for it, protect it,
defend it and then hand it to them with the well-thought
lessons of how they in their lifetime must do the same.
And if you and I don’t do this, then you and I may well spend
our sunset years telling our children and our children’s
children what it once was like in America when men were free.”

Ronald Reagan


(the mayor enjoying a face painting / 2021)

This new community that we now call home hosted a Memorial Day family
community pool party and cookout bash.

And so naturally we had our son and daughter-n-law bring up the Mayor
the Sheriff for the festivities.

There was great food, good music, face painting, balloons along with a much
cooler day than desired in order to spend one’s time in the pool
with the grandkids.
But we do what we must right?!

Last night I noted out loud how much I had enjoyed this year’s Memorial Day…
the other most memorable Memorial Day was the time when we went to Savannah
to scope out our son and at the time, future, daughter in law’s wedding.

This weekend was actually what I would call normal.
Meaning, I readily and unconsciously fell into a sense of what we call
normalcy…life as we once knew it to be.
There were no masks, no social distancing…no limitations…
only kids and parents enjoying a kick-off day to summer.
There were real visible smiles.

Kids lined up to get their faces painted.
Adults stood in line to ‘build’ their burgers and hotdogs.
Balloons were shaped into animals.
Ice cream was plentiful.
The sun peeked in and out from behind the clouds.

And whereas our family celebrated like many American families celebrated
this opening weekend of a new summer…celebrating with cookouts and dips
in the pool…the real meaning of this day has not been lost on my heart.

Years ago when I was teaching, our high school usually had graduation on
the Friday night of the Memorial day weekend.
We’d then start our post-planning on Monday…the official day for Memorial Day.
The nation was observing Memorial Day while our faculty was busy closing
out the school year.

We had a football coach, a man who I still consider myself very fortunate
for having had the opportunity of calling colleague, who was a former
Army officer.

I can remember this ball coach standing up to address the entire staff
on that somewhat fateful Monday morning following graduation…
that Memorial Day morning that we, as a school system, was gathered
together working verses celebrating.

He offered a blistering admonishment.

Many of us had groused at not being able to spend the day
being with our families to help usher in summer…
however this football coach, this former Army Officer and West Point
graduate, took his colleagues and administration to task.

He reminded us why we really should not be at work this particular day.

That our being at work was rather a slap in the face of every armed
service member who had ever served our Nation.

What was wrong that we could not pause for a single day
in order to simply say thank you….

Suddenly it seemed as if the air left the room.
It was a struggle to breath the heaviness that hung in the room.

There was a sense of guilt racing through the room.

Whereas the teachers felt badly for simply wanting to be off with their families
to enjoy a day of cookouts and swimming…I could only imagine that our
administration team was really feeling a sense of oppressive guilt.

Needless to say, for as long as I continued working at the school, we
never worked another Memorial Day.

My daughter in law sent me this lovely reminder of where our thoughts
should actually be on Memorial Day….

John Guy writes:
“What God did at Pearl Harbor that day is interesting and I never knew
this little bit of history.

Tour boats ferry people out to the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii
every thirty minutes. We just missed a ferry and had to wait thirty minutes.
I went into a small gift shop to kill time.

In the gift shop, I purchased a small book entitled,
“Reflections on Pearl Harbor” by Admiral Chester Nimitz.

Sunday, December 7th, 1941— Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a
concert in Washington, DC. He was paged and told there was a
phone call for him. When he answered the phone,
it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the phone.

He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the
Commander of the Pacific Fleet.
Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet.
He landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941.
There was such a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat–
you would have thought the Japanese had already won the war.

On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of
the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.
Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters
everywhere you looked. As the tour boat returned to dock,
the young helmsman of the boat asked,
“Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?”

Admiral Nimitz’s reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice.
Admiral Nimitz said, “The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes
an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America.
Which do you think it was?”

Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked,
“What do mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes
an attack force ever made?

Nimitz explained:

Mistake number one:

The Japanese attacked on Sunday morning.
Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave.
If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk–
we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.

Mistake number two:

When the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row,
they got so carried away sinking those battleships,
they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships.
If they had destroyed our dry docks,
we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired.
As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised.
One tug can pull them over to the dry docks,
and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have
towed them to America.
And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.

Mistake number three: Every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater
of war is in top of the ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill.
One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply.

That’s why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest
mistakes an attack force could make or, God was taking care of America.

I’ve never forgotten what I read in that little book.
It is still an inspiration as I reflect upon it.
In jest, I might suggest that because Admiral Nimitz was a Texan,
born and raised in Fredericksburg, Texas — he was a born optimist.

But any way you look at it —
Admiral Nimitz was able to see a silver lining in a situation
and circumstance where everyone else saw only despair and defeatism.

President Roosevelt had chosen the right man for the right job.
We desperately needed a leader that could see silver lining
in the midst of the clouds of dejection, despair and defeat.

There is a reason that our national motto is, IN GOD WE TRUST.

Why have we forgotten? PRAY FOR OUR COUNTRY! IN GOD WE TRUST.”

old made new

The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become –
because He made us.
He invented us.
He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be…
It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality,
that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”

C.S. Lewis


(a green chameleon perches amongst the shrubs / Julie Cook / 2021)

At our previous home, we always had a small menagerie of critters that
called our home and yard, their home and yard…

This new house is no different–it’s just that some of the residents are,
well, different.

A post regarding these new residents will be a post for another day….
for today’s thoughts come from my having spotted a chameleon who was
in the process of literally losing his or her skin—
sloughing off the old for the new.


(a chameleon shedding / Julie Cook / 2021)

Maybe I knew this little fact about lizards shedding…
maybe I’d forgotten…
I certainly knew it about snakes and cicadas shedding…
but I’d never given much thoughts about lizards doing the same.

We have a group of skinks and chameleons who call our back patio theirs.
As in they were here before us.

The chameleons gravitate from green to brown depending on their
whims…or more aptly…depending on where they opt to traverse or
spend their time.. be it on the furniture or in the bushes.

Amazing how God gave such creatures the gift of change depending
upon their circumstance.

So imagine my surprise, or more aptly my shock, when I went to sit down
on a chair situated on the patio, and suddenly spied two chameleons chasing
one another on the chair…with one of the two looking pretty rough.
As in a bad hair, or make that skin, day,

Upon closer inspection, I realized the smaller of the two lizards was
shedding its winter coat, readying itself for a glorious spring and summer.
As well as hoping to look its best in order to snag a would be mate.

I think we humans feel much the same following our winter
hibernations…especially this year…
This past year having been a full length marathon hibernation…
Meaning it’s past time to let go of the old and become fresh and new.

I really like Mr. Lewis’s thoughts offered at the start of this post–
the thought that God invented all the different persons we are to become
throughout our lifetime–both good and bad actually.

I’ve never quite thought of it like that before.

Life without knowing our true nature as a child of God can
leave us quite dull and heavy.
And so as we advance in our relationship with the triune God,
we shed and shed….we shed off our old worn-out selves
as each shedding gives way to a newer creature…
allowing us to become lighter and much more fresh.

The shedding isn’t pretty to watch and is rather uncomfortable
to endure— think itchy and irritating and even perhaps
somewhat embarrassing…but the shedding, as unsightly as it is,
is necessary none the less.

And so during each season of our lives, as we gravitate to and closer
to our oneness with the One who gave Himself up on our behalf—
our God, Creator and Savior has seen us both before and after each of these
sloughing-off of layers.
Always loving us before, during and after we emerge into
our true and intended likeness of God’s original intention
for us, His created…

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live,
but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh
I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

setting our sights

Though Moses was not permitted to enter the land of promise,
he was vouchsafed a sight of it from a distance.
We too, though as yet we are not admitted to heavenly glory,
yet are given to see much, in preparation for seeing more.

St. John Henry Newman
from an Advent sermon in Parochial and Plain Sermons

When I was in college, I spent my summers working at a girl’s Christian summer camp.
I was the riflery director.
It was a position I just kind of fell into…but that’s another story for another day.

At the start of each new summer, just days prior to the campers arriving,
I would be busy spending those days cleaning, testing and sighting in the rifles.
I oiled each rifle, tested each one for proper firing, and zeroed in the sights as best
I could with pre-manufactured sights.

I needed to make certain that each rifle was in working order for my campers.

These guns were traditonal bolt action .22 calibers… there were no fancy scopes…
merely the metal notch, aka sight, manufactured on the gun…
more or less what is known as an open sight gun.

The rifles usually took a beating each summer…they’d get dropped, whacked by accident
and stacked up inside a closet in the gym at the end of each day.
After being stored away all winter, I had to make certain the barrels were still straight
and the sights were not bent or, in some cases, broken off.

To shoot these old school rifles, one would have to close one eye while using the
one open eye to look down along the top of the barrel,
down past a small metal V or notch located up on the barrel.
You’d have to line up the notch on the rifle with the bullseye on the target that was placed
about 75 yards away–then take in a deep breath, holding it in while gently
pulling the trigger.

The girls would start out in what is known as a prone firing position—
meaning they were resting flat on their stomachs, perched on a mat.
Next, they would attempt a kneeling position and eventually a standing postion.
They usually preferred the prone postion because they didn’t have to worry about holding
up the gun while attempting to keep it steady when trying to aim.

Target shooting is a disciplined activity.
It’s about learning how to steady one’s body and breathing while focusing one’s vision.

And it is that focusing of one’s vision that brings my thoughts to this time of year…
that being Advent.
A word that means coming…
and if something is coming, we usually need to be looking for it.

And so I was reminded about my “shooting” days when reading St Newman’s quote today–
St. Newman speaks of the glimpses God affords us…glimpses require us to
be steady and watchful while focusing on what is to be seen.
As in zooming in and seeing something through a sight.
We have to steady ourselves in order to see it more clearly.

At Advent, God grants us this glimpse.
A glimpe of that which is coming…coming our way.
And so this is a time of preparation…the glimpse is given and now
it is our chore to ready ourselves for what awaits us.

The glimpse tells us that there is something so much more than just a mere
passing glance…we know that we need to be ready, steady and focused.

Time to zero in on that which is coming and that which is so much greater than ourselves.

Year passes after year silently, Christ’s coming is ever nearer than it was.
O that, as He comes nearer earth, we may approach nearer heaven!”

St John Henry Newman

generation…redeemed

“God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say.
Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful:
he makes saints out of sinners.”

Soren Kierkegaard, The Journals of Kierkegaard


(gulf frittilary butterfly /Julie Cook / 2020)

Yesterday our friend Kathy, over on atimetoshare.me, offered a marvelous post examining our various
generational monikers.

We have the greatest generation, the baby boomers, the silent generation, the Me generation,
along with that X, Y, and Z business.
A crazy mishmash of generational clarifications.

These labels are not necessarily meant to definitively define a specific group of people, given their
time of birth and their time of growing up, but it does, none the less, have a lasting pigeon hole
for those born during various time periods.

Were they quiet and steadfast?
Were they daring and wild?
Were they hyperfocused and driven?

Yet it wasn’t so much the names and characteristics of each generation that caught
my attention but rather it was the afterthought Kathy offered…

She noted that we should add in the Redeemed generation…

And I’d like to think that is this is the defining highlight of the pandemic /civil unrest generation…
a group of people that transcend both generational monikers or age barriers.

A collective group of ages and backgrounds.

Redemption that crosses both space and time…

Kathy reminds us:
The beautiful message of the Gospel, assures our forgiveness if we only believe it.
Isn’t it wonderful that in this world, where evil and selfishness prevail,
those who have faith in the most important gift of God can still be part of the “Redeemed Generation.”
Because of His grace alone, we will inherit His heavenly kingdom.
Through our faith alone, which is also a gift from God,
we receive the promise of eternal life.
Through His inspired Word, we have the perfect handbook for life provided by the King of Kings.
It isn’t complicated.

May we all strive to be a part of this Redeemed generation….

GENERATION REDEEMED

evil lurks in a garden…humm…where have I heard that before?

When confronted with two evils,
a man will always choose the most attractive.

Anonymous


(the quince faded and yet in the summer’s dogdays, are now reving back up / Julie Cook / 2020)

With little to no time to tend to the yard as I would normally do this time of year…sadly,
surreally, this time of year has not been like previous times of year…

So having taken out the garbage the other evening, I glanced once again forlornly,
over to the ever-growing leggy quince, the fledgling maple trees,
and some stubborn resprouting crepe myrtles all dotting the back bank…

Disgusted by what I saw…weeds were thriving amongst that which was treasured.

Neglected entirely too long!

Is this not the current story of our lives?

The negative now flourishing amongst that which we hold dear because of our distractions,
our worries, our heaviness…

So I threw the trash in the bin and grabbed my clippers…enough already!!!!

I went over the quince first.

I wanted to hit the high spots…that obnoxious giant poke salat and those
annoying runners from the crepe myrtle that was cut down years ago and those shoots
from the maple trees…
but as I clipped and yanked with the ire and determination of a woman frustrated with
much more than aggravating weeds…something caught my eye…

WHAT???

Hidden amongst the quice was something rather unkind and most unwelcomed.

Poison Ivy.

Or was it worse..was it the dreaded thunder wood?

I had already clipped and pulled, without my gloves mind you, several of these
“pesky” weeds, before realizing these pesky weeds were much more insidious than shoots,
runners or the blooming plants from random dropped seeds by passing birds.

I dropped my bundle of weeds, along with my clippers, practically running inside to immediately
wash my hands.

The next day I saw this:

Okay I thought, I have prescription cream for such…I’ve got this.

The day after that, two more spots on my shoulder.

Okay, more cream.

The day after that, after itching through much of the night, may we now times these
few red blistery spots by at least 100 that now currently cover my entire torso.

The doctor gave me a steroid shot today and a prednisone pack.

Did I mention the 6 or more hot flashes I’m already experiencing throughout the night
due to stopping the HRT?

Itching, hot flashes…
Sleep?!
HA!

Insomnia is my middle name!
Don’t worry about that twitching eye, it’s trained on the madness raging all around us.

Yet in all of this, I was reminded that where we think beauty and peace reside,
where we believe calm and simplicity rest, our ancient nemesis does not sleep.

Remember this as you ponder the current madness ravaging our nation.


(Christ smashing the head of the serpent in the Garden / The Passion of the Christ)

Be sober-minded; be watchful.
Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

a harbinger

Come, fair repentance, daughter of the skies!
Soft harbinger of soon returning virtue;
The weeping messenger of grace from heaven.

Thomas Browne


(red amongst the summer green /Julie Cook / 2020)

Harbinger as a noun: something that foreshadows a future event:
something that gives an anticipatory sign of what is to come

Harbinger as a verb: to give a warning or prediction of

I’ve written about harbingers before and usually, those posts were related to changing
seasons and or weather.

However, when I was out in the yard, picking ripe tomatoes in the heat of an early August
afternoon, sweat dripping from my face…finding a fully red, fall-like leaf, sitting alone
and somewhat forlorn in the green parched yard of summer…well,
things seemed a bit out of sorts.

My thoughts were not of a coming Fall, along with the changing of leaves and cooling temps…
but rather my mind wandered elsewhere.

When I think of the word harbinger, I don’t think of a heralding of sorts but rather I think
of that which is more foreboding…as in ominous.

A shadowing of sorts.

Seems about right given our current state of affairs…

More on the subject soon…

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves,
and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

2 Chronicles 7:14

even when you’re down, look up

“A people who do not honor the deeds of their worthy dead
will do nothing worthy of being honored by their descendants.”

Macalay


(a weathered tombstone, Myers Cemetery, Townsend, TN / Julie Cook / 2020)

It was hot, nearing 90, as the sun beat down on our backs.
The bugs certainly weren’t bothered by the heat as they swarmed around our faces.
My husband kept slapping at his legs to fend off the ravenous bites.

On this particular July 4th, 2020 we found ourselves wandering around the oldest cemetery
in this particular part of Tennessee—
Myers Cemetery in the small sleepy town of Townsend, Tennessee.

Townsend boasts being the quiet side of the Smokies…
a far cry from nearby Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg.

We like quiet.

Townsend is one of the gateways to The Great Smokey Mountains National Park…
in particular the gateway to Cades Cove—
One of the first mountain settlements by white European immigrants in what was
originally a part of the Cherokee Nation.

Myers cemetery dates back to 1795, if not even years before.
There are approximately 300 graves, many unknown, and even many unmarked.
Out of the approximate 300 marked graves,
75 graves belong to children under the age of 12.

There was the bittersweet double tombstone of twins born in 1805—
each living 4 and 5 days respectively.

Sheep and lambs that rest atop tombstones, denote the graves of children.

Even the small etched hand, held within a larger hand.

But many of the oldest graves simply have a single stone or piece of slate marking one’s place.

And so when I saw the worn weathered marker of a hand with a finger pointing upward, I couldn’t
help but see the significance that even in death, we are reminded our hope and help
comes from above.

So as we find ourselves currently gripped by all sorts of angst, sorrow, fear and the unknown on this earth, it is here in a quiet mountain cemetery , walking amongst the long dead, that I am pointedly reminded that even in death,
we are to always look up…

“We must pray literally without ceasing— without ceasing—
in every occurrence and employment of our lives…
that prayer of the heart which is independent of place or situation,
or which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God as in a constant
communication with Him.”

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121

looks are deceiving

Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky


(driving into Atlanta from the west / Julie Cook / 2020)

Nearly 40 years ago when I first moved away from home, having taken my first teaching position
in a small city about an hour’s drive west of Atlanta, this was the view that would
herald my return to the city.

This was the view I would see, as I crested the last hill on the interstate before I was near my
home stretch.

It is the view of the city as seen coming in from the west on 285, just before Six Flags.
It is also a view of a city that has only grown in its vista’s expanse over these
past 40 years.

And yet what a deceiving view it is currently.

This particular Sunday morning there were a few popcorn clouds dotting a sweeping blue
summer’s sky coupled with a lighter than average load of traffic—
all of which just might deceive one into thinking that everything was peachy perfect and
right with the world.

But I knew differently.

I was heading over to stay with the Mayor and Sheriff as their mom had some
appointments Monday morning–but I knew that life in Atlanta was not what it seemed
to be from this bucolic meets urban vista as seen from afar on this Sunday morning.

There had been an arrest gone bad over the weekend and once again,
there was someone resisting arrest.
This person made the decision to wrest a taser from an officer then opted to
run away while pointing the taser back at the officers, and thus…
he was shot and killed.

The choices we make can be life-altering, and even life-ending,
yet we don’t seem to grasp the severity of such choices.

Crowds once again gathered overnight, not to simply protest, but opting rather to riot–
shutting down the major downtown interstate and burning a Wendy’s to the ground.
The same Wendy’s that had been the scene of the altercation.

Police were again immediately fired—and thus so much for due process at the workplace.
And the Atlanta police chief, who had just been praised a mere week prior for her
steely approach to Atlanta’s chaos, averting catastrophe, sadly abruptly resigned.

Groups such as the NAACP cried for the white sheriff’s head on a platter.

And so I was driving and the city grew closer with each passing mile,
I wondered what sort of mayhem was now simmering in the city of my birth.

According to news outlets both local and national…Atlanta is a city on edge.
I did not see that during my stay…but then again I was watching during the day
and was not visiting downtown.

It would behoove us to always remember that looks may indeed be decieving…

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption,
but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Galatians 6:7-8

Yearn to be small

“It is very strange that the years teach us patience –
that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.”

Elizabeth Taylor (née Coles)


(full moon / 2018 / Julie Cook)

Sorrowful at dusk, I wandered outside to mindlessly water the plants.
The sun had set and the moon was rising in the evening sky.

There was a quiet to this little world of mine.

A stark contrast to those teeming cities across this reeling nation caught in turmoil.

It was not yet night but rater twilight…and the rising moon caught my eye…

It wasn’t yet a full moon, but the light cast was illuminated through a humid and hazy sky–
casting an ethereal thin glowing shimmer…all veiled through a typical southern night sky.

I looked up, and despite not yet being a full moon, I suddenly felt very small.

Overwhelmed by a seemingly small glowing skewed orb in a steamy southern night’s sky,
oddly, I found a peace in the sense of being small.

I suddenly yearned to be small…
I relished in feeling minute.

For to be small meant that I was not the center of this, or better yet,
I was not, am not, the proverbial center of the universe or even my universe.

And maybe that is really my hope…my hope, my wish, my prayer…
that my fellow countrymen would and could see that they too should yearn to be small.

That the terrorists, the rioters, the looters, the arsonists, the criminals could see
that they are not as big as they imagine nor as grand as their egos dictate.

And so I say to one and all, yearn to be small.

Egos, our egos, are not small.
They vie for power and control.
They vie to be front and center.

An ego is much like a black hole in that it gobbles up everything in its path.
It feeds upon everything and everyone that happens within its sights.

Death, the loss of life, the destruction of property are all of little consequence–
as the ego fails to acknowledge the reality.

The ego lies.
Satan lies.
He is the father of all lies.

The ego is too self-absorbed to see anything other than itself or of its wants and needs.
The ego yearns to be fed.
It must be fed in order to survive and thrive.

Our lives are being consumed by egos.
Ravenous egos.
And they don’t care who stands in the way.

We can either succumb to the lies of an ego, or we can be bold while
daring to be small.

May we yearn, nay dare, to be small.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;
believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms.
If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and will take you to myself,
that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.

John 14:1-4