Snippets of Life through a couple of Psalms

I am like a pelican of the wilderness:

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(pelican in flight, Destin, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

I am like an owl of the wilderness,
like a little owl of the waste places.

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(Vienna Zoo / Schönbrunn Palace / Vienna, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012

I lie awake;
I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.

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(pigeon atop roof of the Old State House / Boston Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014

When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.

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(praying mantis / Julie Cook / 2014)

For I eat ashes as my food
and mingle my drink with tears

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(embers in the BBQ / Julie Cook / 2014)


Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,

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(seal swimming / Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada / Julie Cook / 2012)

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(basking sea lion, Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada / Julie Cook / 2012

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(the tip top of an orca, Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada / Julie Cook / 2012)

lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,

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(Georgia clouds / Julie Cook / 2013)


you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,

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(Watten, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

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(espaliered apple tree, Mondsee, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds,

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(neighboring Georgia bull / Julie Cook / 2014)

kings of the earth and all nations,
you princes and all rulers on earth,

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(Web image of painting of Henry VIII)

young men and women,
old men and children.

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(homeless man, courtyard of The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(young boy posing for mom’s picture atop the duckings in Boston’s Public Gardens / Julie Cook / 2014)


Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.

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(full moon over Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

And he has raised up for his people a horn,
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.

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(web image of a rally in support of Israel)

Praise the Lord.

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(happy flowers covering Boston, Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014 )

Quietness of the heart

“Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”
― Andrew Murray

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The old church yard at Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo / San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014

The paradox, the conundrum and the dichotomy

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. A higher paradox confounds the emotion as well as reason and there are long periods in the lives of all of us, when the truth as revealed by faith is hideous, emotionally disturbing, downright repulsive. Witness the dark night of the soul in individual saints . . .”
― Flannery O’Connor

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(ball moss found in a tree in San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014)

If I am a follower of the Christ
I am called to die.
For to follow Christ means death.
Death in the eyes of the world

A Christ follower must die unto self.

If therefore, I am dead to self, I am, in turn also, alive
For it is in death, and only in that death, that I might live

For if I am dead to self, I am now born again in the Spirit

If I am a follower of the Christ
I am therefore charged to love those whom I hate and those who hate me
If I am struck, I am to turn, allowing myself to be struck again
For I am not to return evil for evil

Being careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone
(Romans 12:14)

If someone takes what is mine, I am to give them more
If I have riches I am to give it all away. . .
only to become poor

For it is only the poor who inherit the Kingdom of Heaven

If I am a follower of the Christ
I am to forgive those who do me harm,
and forgive those who harm the ones I love
I am to forgive seventy times seven

As 490 was once believed to be a perfect continuum.

If I am a follower of the Christ
I am in the world, yet not of the world
I am a foreigner in my own country
As I become an enemy of the world

I am charged to offer only love to those who call me their enemy

If I am a follower of the Christ
I am a prisoner, yet, I will find myself free
I may be bound and persecuted in body, yet I will be free in Spirit

For if the Son sets you free, then free you are, indeed
(John 8:36)

If I am a follower of the Christ
I must give to Caesar what is Caesar’s
Yet I am to give my heart and soul to Christ alone.

For I can not serve two masters

If I am a follower of the Christ
I may be lost, yet, I am newly found
I may suffer, yet, I will also rejoice
I may cry, yet I will be filled with joy

I may die, yet I will live
For it is only in Christ that we are offered new life

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

(A thank you to Lynda for reminding me of the dichotomy of our faith)

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“Nor did demons crucify Him; it is you who have crucified Him and crucify Him still, when you delight in your vices and sins. ”
― Francis of Assisi

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(statue in a yard in San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014)

We threw caution to the wind
Living for the moment

Self centered, selfish, self
Focusing inward, never outward

As the hammer hit the nail

They did it
That was our familiar cry
It was all them, certainly not me
We claimed none of that

Again a hammer hits another nail

Blood poured out upon our hands
yet there was no acknowledgement
How could that be
Self becoming blood

Another nail is struck

Blood mixes with sin
Flowing down a tree
Spreading out over the dirt
I pick up the linen

Blood covers my hands
It doesn’t wipe off

Lightning streaks across the blackened sky
Was it the thunder which shook the ground
The bitter taste of bile swirls through a dry mouth
I didn’t do this, I swear

The women cry as the people turn away
Three times a rooster crows
There’s another one dead
As the body twists on the noose

The demons in hell are dancing
For once, this was not their doing

Hands still stained
Metal striking metal
There’s money on the ground
Was it just a dream?

Needing to hide,
We run to the shadows
Still claiming none of it
It’s all too much to ignore

Voices cry out
I hear my name
Clean hands reach for the blood soaked hands I hide

Eyes meet mine
Guilt is freely taken
Brokeness made straight
The demons dance no more

Shadows never lie
As Light now breaks the darkness
Battles rage no more
with Victory now at hand

We step out from the grave
The Price is paid in full
Death has lost again
Triumphantly Hope remains alive

Cast forth a great light

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.

Psalm 112:4 NIV

“So don’t be frightened, dear friend, if a sadness confronts you larger than any you have ever known, casting its shadow over all you do. You must think that something is happening within you, and remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why would you want to exclude from your life any uneasiness, any pain, any depression, since you don’t know what work they are accomplishing within you?”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

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(door of the granary of the Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo / San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014)

I spend my life swirling in and out of the shadows of Death.
A precarious dance with darkness.
As the cold languid hand offers itself to entice me, to lure me, to lull me.

A spell is cast and the die is tossed.

A gossamer veil of deceit falls across the window.
No one can see, no one need know, I may do as I please.
The choices all mine as the caliginous night covers the secrets of sin.
A sinister glee echoes off the walls.

Truth is known, yet purposely ignored.

He twists his lies into the false truths I call my own.
The lies swirl around my feet as I sashay around the floor.
The lights are dimmed, blurring truth into the sweat which mingle and fall away.

Suddenly a door is thrust open
A blinding light floods the murky pitch,
quickly diffusing the darkness.
The shadows, which clung to the night,
drip eerily down the walls.

Standing for the first time, awkwardly alone, vulnerable and striped bare of the vibrant scarves of falsehood,
knees now buckle.
The sordid images of my deeds, flash against the brilliant sky.
The burden of guilt hangs heavily around my neck.
No longer are there shadows to hide within,
as the toxic dance concludes.
Hope has overtaken the darkness.

The radiant Light burns away the layers of filth which were once worn with pride.
The lies, the falsehoods, the deceit. . . drifting forever away–diffused in the rays of the powerful brilliance which now claims the room.
The mantle of guilt is gently taken from my weak frame.
The heaviness and fatigue giving way to grateful relief.

Light engulfs my nakedness, clothing me in an all encompassing and warming radiance.
There is a necessary healing in the Light.
Shame is expunged
Guilt is vanquished
Freedom now offered
Love now the Victor

Gone forever is the long night.
Death, now bound in chains, is quickly forgotten.
The shadows all dispersed, the murky fog lifted.
The sins all finally exposed.
Truth now sweetly claims my hand.

Because of my foolishness, the lamb’s blood had to be shed
My selfish follies rendered a price.
Love beaten, nearly broken, was laid bare
Keeping me from the shadows of Death, the sacrifice was freely made.

Assurances fill my being, flowing inward with the cascading knowledge that He’d do it all again–
— simply to have this last dance.
All of this as He lovingly reaches to raise my chin, lifting my face to His–
With a single glance, what was broken is now made whole.

Solitary

And if, happy in the lot of no created thing, he withdraws into the center of his own unity, his spirit, made one with God, in the solitary darkness of God, who is set above all things, shall surpass them all.
— Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

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(female mallard on the San Antonio River / San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014

If I choose to go my way alone, wandering in one direction. . .all the while, as the world travels the opposite path, do you think of me as lonely?

If I prefer the silence of nothing compared to the constant wiring din of life’s deafening sounds, do you find me odd?

If I choose to leave behind the constant steady kinetic energy of the masses, seeking the single movement of One, do you think me sad?

If I am afraid of me, of being alone inside of me, who then can depend on me being fully there for them?

It is only in the recesses of the silence of my soul, far down in the depths of a seemingly empty void of nothingness, where I can begin to hear the tender sweet whisper of the Creator—this, as He whispers to soothe and woo His beloved, His created.

How can I, or you, say that God is dead, that God is silent, that God is non existent if I, or you, choose chaos over peace, noise over silence, crowds over solitude?

I, as well as you, leave Him no room, no space, no place. . .

He is not the raging storm.
He is not the restless wind.
He is not the shaking ground.
He is not the loud crashing waves

He is the Silence
He is the Stillness
He is the Calm
He is the Hush

I seek the solitariness of my being in order to find Him waiting.
He waits for me to come to Him not in the hustle bustle of my senses and nerves but rather He waits only within the emptiness of my soul.
I must pour off the excessiveness of my life
I must lose myself from not only the world but from myself as well

I must be quiet in order to find my voice
I must be empty in order to be filled
I must be solitary in order to be joined in Union

The Creator waits for His beloved in the space of the solitary

I am no man’s man

“They say that none of us exists, except in the imagination of his fellows, other than as an intangible, invisible mentality.”
― Edgar Rice Burroughs

I am an invisible man. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.
Ralph Ellison

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( Alamo Square / San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014)

I am no man’s man

When I was born,
Hope was born,
Potential was born,
Possibilities were born.
The world was beautiful with vibrant color.
The stars above were endless and bright.

Was there love in my world?
Did my birth bring anyone joy?
Was I a happy child?
Did I coo as a baby?
Did I laugh easily?
Did I thrive and develop?

As my years increased, I think the stars grew dim.
Hope eerily languished.
Potential suffered slowly and painfully before dying.
Possibilities vanished.
Love was lost.
Color was no more
My world was black and white
I become no one.

When did I come to this park?
When did this bench become my bed?
When did I, as a person, no longer matter?
When did I become a non entity?
When did my light grow dull?

The throngs of tourists, the business people and the children
they all simply see through me, past me, beyond me.
I do not exist, yet I am here.
You who do see me, secretly wish I was invisible.
I am a trouble to your conscience.
I should simply cease being
I am no man’s man.

I am dirty
I smell
I am lost
I have nothing
I own nothing
I am not productive
I am your eyesore
Your burden
The being you wish would disappear

I do drink when I can
I do smoke when I can
I mostly beg
I am dishonest to you but more so to myself.

The days roll one into the next
The time matters not
I cough
Is that blood?
I smoke things to forget
I drink things to take me to different places
Days merge into night
the night will not stop
Is this all there is?

I close my eyes,
If they open again,
It is all the same
I am still the same empty specter you despise
I am the nothing which bothers you, irritates you
You wish I would vanish
You wish I did not exist, not like this
You blame me
You blame others
That would make all of this much neater
You wouldn’t have to be troubled

This is a messy situation
This is an uncomfortable issue
This is a troublesome thing
To you, I am:
unsightly
ugly
bad
I am a nobody
I am no man’s man

I am no man’s man.
and it all begins again. . .

Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.

Mother Teresa

Cookie’s on the move

“Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing in.”
― Katherine Mansfield

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Not a permeant move mind you, just a few days sabbatical.
Wait.
If it’s a working trip for one of us, can it still be a sabbatical for the other one of us?
The one whose already retired, the one who is tagging along looking for a little bit of inspiration from new sights and new sounds?

I feel as if Cookie was born to move.
As in, I have bags, I will travel, sort of move.
Not the whole pack up your world and move.
Nothing so drastic.
Little movement verses big movement.
Of course I blame it all on the adoption.

A baby born, knowing it is pre-destined for the “home”– certainly came pre-destined with a packed bag.
(and speaking of Philomena—not necessarily the movie, as I purposely chose not to see it but I am currently reading the book—It is proving to be the sort of book I must put down on an almost chapter by chapter basis as it is hard to imagine such took place in the country of my family’s roots, Ireland—plus as an adopted individual, it certainly makes one think. . .but we love Dame Judi Dench–of course we do. We’ll have a post on such at a later date. . .but today it is on to bigger and better things—things like moving on. . . and things like Texas—BIG)

My take on being adopted is that one is to make the most of a hard wired tendency.
No regrets.
If folks say I gotta move, than move I shall!
What was that song. . .”all my bag are packed, I’m ready to go, I’m standing here outside your door, I hate to wake you up to say good-bye. . . yada yada yada, I’m leaving on a jet plane. . . yada, yada, yada”—you get it, right?. . .

You say trip, adventure, business— I say I’m gain and I’m there!
Bags packed, camera ready. . .passport finally with the correct name—what a fiasco—you must read one of my very first posts—-“Goose chases, passports and the times in which we live” from Feb. 28, 2013. . .that is the story of my life encased in a nutshell–a nutshell of a comedy of divine errors.
So yep, I’m good to go!
This coming from a Miss Homebody. . .

This world is indeed wide and wonderful, and yes, wherever I may roam, my thoughts do return to precious things such a family, friends and home—but I am always up for a road trip. . .just let me know when you’re ready. . .and I’ll start packing!!
Oh and you should know, that I keep my passport on the ready.
I keep a $100 and 100 euros tucked inside on the ready because one just never knows when one needs to make a quick getaway. . .

Next stop—the Lone Star State
Stay tuned . . .

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I spy mint– that can only mean one thing—Julep Time

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Here in “the South” –and for those of you readers not in the US, or familiar with the particular regions making up the US, “the South” means anything below the Mason Dixon line and east of Texas. The Mason who and what about Texas you ask??!! Well, most Southerners equate the Mason Dixon line as a dividing line dating from the Civil War time period denoting “free” states and “slave” states– or in layman’s term, northern states and southern states. However the survey line actually dates back much earlier and was originally used/created/surveyed to denote British colonies verses American Colonies—a dividing line no matter when or how you look at it.

And as far as Texas is concerned, when they travel, many a Texan will claim to hail from the South when asked from where it is they “come from”— but if the truth be told, Texans would prefer to say that they hail from the country of Texas, a separate country from the US entirely—it’s that big you know.

Anywho (a southern expression) back to the point of this story…here in the South, at the first sign of warm weather—and warm weather is anything on a thermometer reading from the 60s to 70ish degrees Fahrenheit, and of course the sun must be shining– people begin shedding. This phenomenon is a lot like animals that shed as the temperatures rise but rather than shedding hair or fur, Southerners shed clothes.

It could be January 6th on the calendar but if the day is sunny and feels “warm,” a Southerner will scour the closest for special clothing items that have been tucked away for winter hibernation— a pair of shorts, a t-shirt and a pair of flip flops (a simple type of sandal). Business people will think it a good idea to dine alfresco at lunch. Folks sporting convertible cars will think it wise to “pop the top.” (Let’s not talk about pollen yet, shall we—that is another story entirely, how the world turns to yellow powder). Snow and ice may be forecast for the following day, but this day, this day is warm and that means time to “soak up some rays” (meaning to feel the warmth of the sun on your skin and enjoy it).

When I was in college, attending The University of Georgia, I was a member of a sorority (a kind of club for girls). I was a Phi Mu. The Phi Mu house there in Athens, is an antebellum house dating back 150 years. It has an old tin rooftop. The Phi Mus were famous for “sunning” on the tin roof. It could be 38 degrees, with a cold north wind howling, on an early February day, but if the sun was shinning, and heat radiating, girls, oh so very pale girls, would don bathing suits, make for a window only to scamper out to the roof in order to procure a prime sunning spot. The roof of the Phi Mu house is famous you know.

However back to the story, again– as the temperatures begin a slow ascent upward, usually in March, the little, winter, dormant, garden plants that have been “hunkered down” (another southern expression) for the past couple of months, begin slowly creeping upward as well. One of the first little plants (weeds to some as it is a plant that spreads and never seems to give up) to emerge out of hiding from down in the dark soil, baring its sleepy little leaves, is the Mentha x piperita or the Peppermint plant/herb. I prefer Peppermint for my yard, however spearmint is the more common plant found in most gardens.

Ever since I was a young girl, I have loved peppermint tea. It was always a treat when my mother would buy me a tin of Twinning’s Peppermint tea, a real splurge on my mom’s grocery budget. I would feel so sophisticated making myself a cup of tea at the wise old age of 10. I must confess that this little ritual has been with me ever since but I digress.

Being the true Southerner that I am (I’m no transplant as I was born and raised here) I watch my sleepy little mint plants popping up out of the ground and I immediately start thinking Juleps!
What’s a Julep you ask—a beautifully sophisticated southern adult sipping beverage. Refreshing on a hot, humid southern sticky day (anyone traveling to the South in the summer months has come face to face with the dreaded southern sticky humidity—a type of heat that hits you smack in the face and sucks the life out of you. Making it difficult to breath, it can trigger health warnings and does a terrible number on one’s hair—but there I go digressing again…)

It is important to find something, anything to soothe the southern sticky humidity and a Julep is an age-old remedy. It is also a precursor to the most famous of horse races, the Kentucky Derby. I suppose Kentucky may claim to be the home of the Julep. I can’t say for certain, as I’ve not done any historical research into the inception of the drink, but given that the main ingredient is Kentucky Bourbon, I suppose they may claim it as so.

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I would like to continue this little discourse of all things southern, horse racing, juleps, etc…but today is one of those “sunny” southern days of glory. My mind is wandering to all things of warm weather…cookouts, the sweet smell of freshly mowed grass, fire ants (damned creatures—for another post), long sunny afternoons, watermelons, star gazing to the mournful sound of the whipper-o-wills, sweet corn on the cob with buttery wonder dripping down one’s chin, and a tall frosty glass of either a julep or even a mojito to quench that sweltering sticky humidity that I know is coming…

Here are two little recipes for a Julie Julep or of Jujito –be mindful that I am not one big on the whole concept of measuring. I’m of the school of a dash of this and a splash of that…a scary little concept when talking Bourbon, Vodka or Pisco. (Pisco is a wonderful fermented liquor made from distilled grape must originating from Peru—I prefer it to Tequila).

Get a pretty tall/collins glass—I pull out my best Waterford crystal (thank you Ireland). But a true Julep cup is a small squat sterling silver cup which nicely captures the “sweat” of the ice within on an oh so hot day….. Cut a bunch of fresh mint leaves. Get some crushed ice. If you’re a purist, make some simple syrup by boiling equal parts sugar and water but I have found Agave nectar to be a quick solution—found at grocery stores—
Place the mint in the glass/ cup and using a muddler, or the end of a wooden spoon, crush the mint leaves releasing the essential oils. Fill the glass with crushed ice. Add a Tablespoon to 1 oz syrup/ nectar, depending if you like it sweet or not. Next add 2 to 3 ounces of good Kentucky bourbon (the best you can afford) and if necessary an ounce or so of water, depending if you’re a purist or not—give it all a stir, top with some mint leaves and voila!!

The Jujito is more of a lime inspired libation equally rewarding on a hot sticky southern evening. Get a tall/ Collins glass (see above). Fill with mint leaves, crushing with a muddler or end of a wooden spoon. Cut a lime in half and squeeze ¼ to ½ of the lime in the glass. Pour in 1 oz of syrup/nectar, 2 to 3 ounces of either Pisco or Vodka—the Pisco is really the best choice. Top off the glass with lime-aid, Simply Lime, or some other limejuice type beverage (not a soda—raspberry lemonade can be substituted). Top with a slice of lime and more mint—enjoy and do not gulp.

Warning–if you want more accuracy measuring, perhaps a lookup of a cocktail would be helpful–you are welcomed to experiment with ingredients and measurements–whatever floats your boat (another southern expression). These are meant to be savored in a lawn chair or rocking chair–no drinking and driving ever intended!!

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