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

apples are apples… yet sometimes they just might be an orange….

Keep me as the apple of the eye;
hide me in the shadow of thy wings,
from the wicked who despoil me,
my deadly enemies who surround me.

Psalm 17:8-9


(one of our two little apples on our four apple trees…Julie Cook / 2017)

Whereas an apple a day supposedly keeps the doctor away, historically apples have often
fallen in and out of favor….both literally and figuratively.
in part due to a loss of translation or simple miscommunication.

A member of the rose family, apples were most likely the first trees to be cultivated
by man.
Historical records have even credited Alexander the Great with most likely
discovering a dwarf variety of apples that he later brought to Macedonia from Kazakhstan.

And it was the early European settlers who are credited with having first introduced
cultivated varieties of apples to North America as the crab apple was the only native
“apple” species on the continent.

Thus having originated in central Asia, it is often speculated as to whether apples were
even known to exist as an actual fruit or tree in ancient biblical times.

And as any biblical translation scholar will tell you,
Hebrew translations may or may not always have a corresponding word in
English as an equivalent…
just as we observe with the use of the word apple in Psalm 17.

Verse 8 mentions “keeping me as the apple of your eye…”
Meaning that ‘I am to be held in the center of your heart and attention
I am your pride and joy…..”

As the Hebrew translation of the psalm does not use the word apple as we
know the word apple to be today, but rather it translates as “little man of my eye”
and refers to the pupil of the eye and not an actual apple because the pupil was
thought to be a round hard ball, much like an apple.

And yet it was the eye to which early civilizations looked as being key to the essence of a person.
So keeping one as the center of the eye is to have kept them at the heart of one’s being.

The word apple is laced throughout various verses and passages in the Old Testament
with a direct Hebrew translation often referring to pupils and or actual eyeballs…

So perhaps apple is wrongly transposed from the more accurate notion
of that of an aperture, with aperture being the center of the eye…
as an aperture is a hole in which light passes through, such as in a camera lens….
which in turn equates the pupil of the eye, which is the hole allowing
ligt to pass to the back of the retina….which is in essence how we see…
thus apple is meant as aperture.

And as we read the story in Genesis regarding the exchange between Eve and the serpent:

Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden;
but God said,
‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden,
neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”But the serpent said to the woman,
“You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes,
and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate;
and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.

We see the same sort of translation issue arising in this story as
the Latin translation of the word “apple” is closely similar to the translation of “evil”
“with the Latin words mālum (an apple) and mălum (an evil),
each of which is normally written malum.
The tree of the forbidden fruit is called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”
in Genesis 2:17, and the Latin for “good and evil” is bonum et malum.”
(Wikipedia)

So we see that the end result is often that time has a way of cementing
certain words to certain meanings.
While the gist and the story remains pretty much the same and understood…
the symbols of various words take on a variety of meanings.

As in these two examples with the word apple…
In the one instance it is seen as something ominous and wrong with a sinister
and evil connotation…
while next it is meant as something special, endearing and solely important…

And it is often here, in these confusions of translations and multiple meanings,
that skeptics often point…
as skeptics love to use perceived confusion as a smoke screen of defense.
Their’s is a very loud and very vocal piece of the hysterical….
“see, that isn’t right, that isn’t what was really intended….
so how do you, how can you, claim to even know what is right or what is wrong…
maybe you’ve just been misguided all these thousands of years…”

However as we often see in these sacred stories and narratives that although there
may be multiple words that are being used in a variety of different contexts…
the meanings and lessons conveyed are still always the same as originally intended…

It’s just that we may have exchanged an apple for an orange…
Which means that sometimes the words are defined as the same thing,
and at other times they are not…
perhaps meaning or relating to a variety of different things such as
feelings, thoughts and emotions….

….such is the joy of language…

But one thing is always certain…
God’s word will always remain the same…as well as unchanged…
God’s meaning, intent and His words are never altered or changed despite man’s
often erroneous and misguided attempts of expressing such…
For His words stand the test to both time and translation….

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof,
for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

plenteous redemption

‘Copiosa apud Eum Redemptio’
With Him is plenteous redemption


(emerging peaches / Julie Cook / 2017)

Holiness is the source.
In Christ the absolute holiness of God is united hypostatically with the holiness of man.
God’s holiness (as the love of good and the hatred of evil), but first and foremost
as the love of good in everything, even the one who is evil (per accidens [contingently]).
All good (the entire sum of values) outside God has its prototype in God Himself.
God loves one in another – in this consists His Holiness.
This holiness is the basis for redemption –
also understood as the ‘re-evalutation’ of everything:
God restores the value of everything in man,
who is personally united with Him.
He is Christ – Redemptor [Redeemer]: the holiness of man consists
in receiving this good, which God loves –
in this manner Christ becomes the model of holiness.
In Him that holiness is in a way identical to redemption ( Redemptio).
In us it has to depend on, first, conversion to God, and second,
re-evaluation of everything in accordance with the value that everything has in God,
and which Christ the Lord has shown to us.

Novermber 2, 1962
excerpt from the private diaries of Bishop Karol Wojtyla
In God’s Hands / Pope John Paul II

And so it is, in Christ the Redeemer, that man has found his redemption.

Redemption so poignantly expressed each Spring as seen in the blooms, blossoms and
growth of the newness of life….

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

Psalm 130:7-8

no regrets

“Out of love,
No regrets–
Though the goodness
Be wasted forever.

Out of love,
No regrets–
Though the return
Be never.”

Langston Hughes


(a new forming peach / Julie Cook / 2017)

Our society has a flippant little expression…
“leave nothing behind and have no regrets”
Meaning…
whatever you do,
go forward,
don’t look back
and for heaven’s sake, whatever you do, do not ever apologize…

It’s the “glad I did it” sort of mindset with a heavy dose of
“And I’d do it all over again if I had the chance…”
Despite the “it” having been foolhardy, selfish, ill advised or downright wrong…
As the ego boldly claims to have “no regrets”
As an air of bravado now masks any second guessing….

While on the other side of this no regret issue,
sits the one who has come to the end of a life lived…
As he now prepares to meet his maker,
he looks back while taking stock of the ups and downs of living….

He looks back determining that despite the highs and the lows,the good and the bad,
he can actually let go, as he readies to go home, with no regrets….

Is that not how we all hope it will be…
That when the time comes for us to depart this life,
we’ll be able to look back with that same sense of peaceful lack of regrets…

Yet unfortunately, we all aren’t granted that luxury of time for reflection,
that time of taking stock.

For one minute we’re here and then the next, we’re not.
No chance to spend time reflecting, pondering or sorting.

Yet for the one who has chosen to follow the Christ…
time no longer matters because…
there are no more regrets….
all having been replaced by forgiveness coupled with Grace…

But there is no point dwelling on the past excessively.
My mother used to warm us against that; she’s say
“Doting on what’s gone is wasting precious time.”
It’s stealing time really, from the present and from the future.
If you believe in the mission of Jesus Christ,
then you’re bound to try to let go of your past,
in the sense that you are entitled to his forgiveness.
To keep regretting what was is to deny God’s grace.

Dorothy Day

grits and magnolias

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces,
I would still plant my apple tree.”

Martin Luther

“Dripping water hollows out stone,
not through force but through persistence.”

Ovid


(a bloom from the magnolia tree my grandmother and mother planted when I was a little girl/
Julie Cook / 2016)

Driving home late this afternoon from Dad’s I passed a car that was sporting a bumper sticker.
I enjoy reading most of the stickers that either I pass or those that pass me…
stickers which are stuck on the various vehicles throughout my commute…
Some of them are cute and clever,
some are benign and boring and some are flat out truthful and or offensive.

One in particular caught my eye as I barreled out of Atlanta late today.

“GRITS”

I for one am not a huge grits enthusiast…
although my Dad has always loved his grits each morning as a part of his breakfast regimen.
If the truth be told, I actually prefer the more northern fare of home fries rather than the
southern ground corn with my eggs and bacon…
I also love some good hash browns…not smothered or covered mind you—just a little salt is good.
Grits are just so so….despite being doctored up with salt and butter…I still prefer potatoes.

I do however love a nice cheese grits casserole or a hearty bowl of polenta with fresh parmesan cheese grated on top…but as far as breakfast, I happily forgo the grits.

Dad actually use to question my being a true Southerner as due in part to my less then
enthusiastic desire of grits with breakfast…
loving watermelon however did help me save face as well as my heritage…

So back to today’s bumper sticker…
GRITS is short for
Girls Raised In The South….

I like it….
as in there’s a little grit in that craw sort of thing going on.
As true southern girls are not all lace and petticoats contrary to popular belief.
I think more of Scarlet O’Hara’s raised fist stating that she will never go hungry again
sort of tenacity verses that demure “well shut my mouth fiddle dee dee”
cloyingly sweet honey dripping sentiment.

For Southern girls are fierce and tenacious….
much like my beloved Georgia Bulldogs—
cute and sweet to look at, even appearing a bit lackadaisical or slow,
yet mean and fierce, just like a junk yard dog when necessary.

Which brings me to magnolias.
Another true southern staple…
but in my case, I’m thinking more like a Steel Magnolia…

A magnolia bloom is a quintessential fragrant flower of the deep south.
Lilly white when unfurled to its full glory…and full of heady aroma…
Yet a magnolia tree is no demure little tree.
Supposedly they are trees that are older than bees.
How that all works, I’m not sure, but after looking at some of trees whose roots
have grown upwards out of the ground as in the trees are now sporting “knees”…
…I have also known a few of these trees that are well past the 150 year mark…
Well, I suppose I liken them to cockroaches….
in that they would most likely survive a nuclear event and simply keep on keeping on….

I say all of this as I’ve been reading recently a lot about the continuing business
of all things feminist…female militancy at its worst, raising its ugly head….
As in the latest being some boycott and march, yes another drole protest…as in how novel,
is to take place Wednesday….

Haven’t we marched and protested a bit much as of late…??
surpassing our quota for say…maybe the next 10 decades?!

Feminism.
Despite being of the female persuasion I’ve never cared for “feminism.”
The Gloria Steinem, bra burning, Hellen Reddy I Am Woman Hear Me Roar,
contraceptive swallowing, in your face militant feminism.

And whereas much of that may sound of a former time,
today’s feminists are not much different in their militant banter, male emasculating,
in your face nastiness, band of hidden agenda sisterhood, sign waving, fist raised,
unappealing anger group of gals.

I have grown weary hearing women chant that most males are misogynists.
Just as I am tired of hearing about gender choices, vagina hats, abortion rights,
reproductive issues, inequality…
yada, yada, yada…

If memory serves, there is but One who ordained gender, ordained equality
ordained roles, ordained all of life but I digress….

I grew up when good ol boy networks were very much alive and well.
I grew up in the work force where I was sexually harassed over and over long
before it was a popular catch phrase.
I endured and persevered…because here in the South, that’s what we all do…
male or female…
we persevere.
We don’t whine and most often, we don’t complain, not publicly anyway.
Yet we have been known to get a bit even when necessary….

For we Southerners have a determination and a steeliness that gets us through much of what
life throws at us.

Black or white, red or yellow…we preserve.
As we’ve often had to make do with less while equally sharing any of our abundance.

And respect has always been a big part of being raised in the South.

Many folks have always equated the South with being backwards, backwoods, ignorant and redneck.
Think Deliverance, while hearing dueling banjos, and that’s what other’s have mostly
thought of us.

Our speech pattern may be a bit drawn out but that certainly doesn’t mean that our brains,
nor are our hearts, are anything but quick and large….

I am proud of being a woman, and a southern woman at that,
because it means that I have a strength that many men do not.
No matter our point of origin, the strength of a woman is found in the heart of a fiercely
protective mother, yet one who knows that letting go is simply part of life.
Think Mary….

I am proud of being a woman who can appear perhaps a bit simple, unassumingly sweet
but who can be complicated, deeply profound and hell on wheels when necessary.
Think Mother Teresa

A woman who loves and appreciates men—men who are masculine…
and whose mothers imparted upon them a sense of decency and compassion.
Because I know real men can and do cry.
Just as I know real men can stand alongside a woman while defending their nation…
all the while never blinking an eye…
Think Joan of Arc

I like what it means to be a woman—
to be nurturing while strong, sentimental while determined,
and tender while tenacious….
Think Clare of Assisi

This isn’t intended to be a complicated or political discourse on women’s rights,
gender equality, or the importance of the solidarity of women….
for I have neither time nor strength for that never-ending debate…

This is merely the observation of women by a woman…a southern woman.

A woman who has more in life to worry over than protesting and marching.
A woman who has been busy being a wife, mother, daughter and caretaker.
A woman who was so busy working that she never selfishly thought that
demonstrating or picketing was ever a priority during the forging, caring,
teaching and living of life.

No….there is no real place for the militancy of feminism when a woman
is busy living her life…as she cares and works for all those around her…
it’s what real women do—
fiercely and tenaciously caring, raising, nurturing, honoring and protecting…

Here’s to real women everywhere…those too busy to protest and march….
Those women who are strong of body, spirit and soul…
those who understand the true importance of what God has entrusted upon
them….
that of living a life of a woman…..

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.
And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.
But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

infinitely more than yourself

True, He is infinite Majesty, but He is also infinite Goodness and infinite Love.
There can be no greater Lord than God;
neither can there be a more ardent lover than He.

Saint Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori

dscn4749
(a January Georgia morning sky / Julie Cook /2017)

“It is only the infinite mercy and love of God that has prevented us from
tearing ourselves to pieces and destroying His entire creation long ago.
People seem to think that it is in some way a proof that no merciful God exists,
if we have so many wars.
On the contrary,
consider how in spite of centuries of sin and greed and lust and cruelty and hatred
and avarice and oppression and injustice,
spawned and bred by the free wills of men,
the human race can still recover, each time,
and can still produce man and women who overcome evil with good, hatred with love,
greed with charity, lust and cruelty with sanctity.
How could all this be possible without the merciful love of God, pouring out His grace upon us?
Can there be any doubt where wars come from and where peace comes from,
when the children of this world, excluding God from their peace conferences,
only manage to bring about greater and greater wars the more they talk about peace?”

Thomas Merton

“In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself.
Unless you know God as that—and, therefore,
know yourself as nothing in comparison—
you do not know God at all. ”

C.S. Lewis

waiting on transformation

The call of death is a call of love.
Death can be sweet if we answer it in the affirmative,
if we accept it as one of the great eternal forms of life and transformation.

Hermann Hesse

dscn4709
(a typical Georgia winter’s day / Julie Cook / 2017)

“Evil is real
and powerful.
It has to be fought, not explained away, not fled.
And God is against evil all the way.
So each of us has to decide where WE stand, how we’re going to live OUR lives.
We can try to persuade ourselves that evil doesn’t exist; live for ourselves and wink at evil.
We can say that it isn’t so bad after all,
maybe even try to call it fun by clothing it in silks and velvets.
We can compromise with it, keep quiet about it and say it’s none of our business.
Or we can work on God’s side, listen for His orders on strategy against the evil,
no matter how horrible it is, and know that He can transform it.”

Catherine Marshall