taking one last hit for the team in ’17; looking forward to ’18

Keep Calm and Carry On….
words seen on a WWII British motivational poster


(why do I think this sad little persimmon is a reflection of myself? / Julie Cook / 2017)

You didn’t think I could let the year end without having one last ‘hit for the team’
and not share it did you??

Oh, and by the way, Happy New Year!!!

But first let’s take a wistful look back to last year….
Or more accurately…back to yesterday afternoon.

Remember, I still have a hole in my head, stitches in my mouth and an annoying
space where there once was a tooth…still swollen, still uncomfortable,
still having trouble chewing without dropping things randomly from my mouth.

Kind out like our cat Percy who lost most of his teeth as a kitten….
He drops his food from his mouth all the time, right in mid bite,
but unlike a dog, he just lets it sit and moves on to a new bite.
I just try to be a bit discreet…..

Anywhoo…..

So here it was New Year’s Eve day—we didn’t really have much to do…
my tooth, or lack there of, had put the kibosh on any sort of plans….

It was a day that the coldest temperatures of the year were descending,
yet thankfully the weather folks had backed off of any sort of snow event,
So…. what better way to spend the day than to head out to wander
through the woods?

I was well layered…
turtleneck, sweater, vest, waxed barn coat, jeans, trusty lined LL Bean boots,
gloves, earmuffs and a scarf—I had my trusty camera in tow and was excited
to be out, breathing in fresh air, up off the couch from nursing the hole
in my head and ready to take some lovely pictures in which to share…with you…

The woods are so open this time of year, allowing yearning eyes to take in
a quiet vastness.
And there is such a palpable stillness.
The only sound one hears is the crunch of leaves underneath wandering boots.

I had hoped to find and capture a few little surprises here and there–
for despite most things being long dead, hibernating or in a state of waiting..
the woods still have much to offer.


(drying and dying persimmons linger on the limbs / Julie Cook / 2017)


(lingering ink berries / Julie Cook / 2017)


(a hooked bush…where a buck deer has rubbed its horns / Julie Cook / 2017)


(a large gall on a tree / Julie Cook / 2017)


(hidden little deer moss / Julie Cook / 2017)

I was lagging behind my husband, as I kept stopping to take pictures.
We had made our way deep into the woods, finally stopping at the creek.
At this juncture along this meandering creek there happens to be an old fallen
tree bridging both sides of the creek.

I’ve told my husband 100 times, I can’t balance like I use to and I’d rather look for
a different place to cross where I could slide down the edge of the bank,
hop across a more shallow area of the creek, while scooting up the
other bank on the other side….

It made perfect sense.

But he kept insisting that I cross the tree as I’ve done it before…
agitated pondering what in the heck was wrong with me today???

And whereas, yes I have crossed it before, still with trepidation, but that was when
the weather was warmer and I was not layered like a chunky eskimo
with a camera slung over my arm, while being full of codeine.

I had been feeling like a fuzzy slug, so at this particular moment, while staring at a precarious tree spanning a creek in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere,
a little voice said “don’t do it”….

Did I mention it was 36 degrees?

“You’ve done it before, just reach out for that limb…”
my know-it-all husband instructs.
Easy for him to say, that limb is dangling over the water and he is a
bit taller than I am.

Cautiously I step out onto the tree, putting one foot boot in front of another.
Making my way to the middle where the tree narrows.
That dangling branch was no where near my grasp.

Suddenly, and for reasons I know not, I begin to list to the left—
the left is where the tooth is missing, the left is where the camera dangles,
the left is where there is a deep murky water hole.

SPLASH!

Suddenly I am chest deep in a cold creek stuck amongst a maze of gnarly limbs and vines.
Plus my left foot had sunk deep into the muddy bottom all the while as I’m flailing
my arms trying to get to the bank.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, there was a thankfulness that all snakes were
fast asleep.

My husband had obviously raced back across without thought and was desperately
trying to yank me up the bank but my left foot, as it’s always the left,
was mired deep in the muddy bottom.

At this exact moment of panic, an image crosses my mind and no, it was not my
life flashing before my eyes, but it might as well have been.

Have you ever watched that show Life Below Zero on NATGEO?
That show about those hearty, perhaps more like fool hearty, souls who live
alone in the middle of nowhere Alaska, totally off the grid???

One sentiment rings true with each of those survivors…
‘if you get your feet wet out here, you’re as good as dead.’

Well, not only were my feet wet, I was immersed up to my chest in dark brown tannin
stained water, a maze of limbs and vines, with my left leg stuck deep in
the silty mud.

What seemed like an eternity was probably more like 2 minutes at best….
I got to the bank while my poor husband was trying to pull up a wet,
stuck, dead weight, mad as hell wife….
suddenly I realized my camera was now totally underwater.

I hear an out of body voice shouting.
“I TOLD YOU I DIDN’T WANT TO CROSS THE TREE!!!!!!”

Finally with my foot free from the mud, I keep telling my husband to let go and quit pulling and yanking cause he was crushing my head.
“LET GO, I’M OUT! I’M UP!!!”

And there I stood along the bank—
dripping like I had just popped up out of a refreshing summer pool…
a soaking wet dog in need of a good shake.

Water was now sloshing in my boots as I took a step.

My husband, now in a panic, just knew pneumonia was instantly setting in.

“Now he worries…gees” as I’m still muttering words I shan’t share here.

It was almost a mile back to the truck.

As he stands there just staring at me, I hear my own commanding voice
“Just start walking to the truck.”

Did I mention is was 36 degrees?

The only thing dry on me, if I may be candid, was my bra and head.

Once back at the truck, my boy scout of a husband thankfully had a towel
in the truck in case of emergencies.

And here was our emergency.

Right there in the woods, I began peeling off the layers of sopping wet and very
cold clothes as I no longer had feeling in my legs.
Bear Grylls voice was now drifting in my head…and thankfully I wasn’t going to
have to eat grubs or drink urine to survive…
but a nice camp fire would have been welcomed.

Boots
socks
pants
coat
underware
vest….
all shed as I wrapped the towel around me like a moo moo.

Did I tell you it was 36 degrees?

My husband is still just helplessly staring and sputtering…certain
I’m about the die immediately from consumption.

“Just get in the truck and drive” I grouse.

It was an hour or so drive home.

“But wonder if something happens or we get stopped and you’re just, just, just
sitting wrapped in a towel….???”

One look from me was enough to spur him back to reality and action.
Into the truck we got… with the heat now blowing just a fast as it could blow.

Thankfully we were not stopped and I got home in one piece to a hot shower with all the
muddy wet clothes going directly into the washer.
The camera, well, it is mostly like DOA

The moral of this little tale you ask?

Well, if you hear a little voice telling you not to cross a log,
don’t cross the log.

If you have a hole in your head and codeine in your system and see a log,
don’t cross the log.

And maybe, just maybe, a certain husband will one day actually listen when
the wise one speaks….

Oh, and always keep a towel in your vehicle, maybe even a change of clothes..
a bottle of bourbon wouldn’t hurt for those emergency and medicinal purposes…
since there was no St Bernard coming to my rescue…

Have a safe, dry, warm and happy New Year’s Day—-
I think I’ll just sit on the couch and watch a few good bowl game….
GO DAWGS!

Silence, authentic and evil

“The Islamic State’s genocide of Christians in the Middle East is well
documented. Yet this modern atrocity is often judged less newsworthy than the
jihadists’ destruction of the region’s cultural heritage. What are the roots
and human realities of this unfolding tragedy in the birthplace of three
great religions?”

back cover offering of the book The Last Christians by Fr Andreas Knapp


(one of our trees in last week’s snow / Julie Cook / 2017)

Speaking of books arriving via the post….
another bookmailer showed up in my mailbox yesterday…

Dare I say that this most recent book will take us in a vastly different
direction than the children’s book seen in yesterday’s post
If My Moon Was Your Sun by Andreas Steinhofel….
Not to say that there won’t be both poignancy, sorrow and loss…
but such will be on a scale that will touch all of us rather than some of us….

This recent book does not look to be an easy read.
Not that there should be great burdensome amount of academic depth but rather simply
the hard tale of human loss and suffering on an epic and historic proportion….
and yet mostly on an overlooked and even ignored level.

Of which is actually most perplexing given the significance of the situation.

The book is entitled The Last Christians by Andreas Knapp

“For a long time Christians in the Middle East have been condemned to silence.
For centuries they have been discriminated against by a predominantly Muslim
society and, as a minority, they have been forced to quietly accept
injustice and lead an inconspicuous life in the shadows.
Even I, a preist and theologian, was for a long time unaware of the moving story
of Christians in Syria and Iraq.

Two years ago, I met some Christians from the Middle East who now live in my
neighborhood of Grunau, in Leipzig, Germany. Having listened to their stories,
I was so moved I had to write them down.
They may not be entirely politically correct, but they are correct in
the sense that they are authentic.”

Fr Andrea Knapp

It is noted from the publisher that “remarkably, though these last Christians hold
no hope of ever returning to their homes, they also harbor no thirst for revenge.
Could it be that they–along with the Christians of the West, whose interest will
determine their fate–hold the key to breaking the cycle of violence in the region?

Their’s is a story that I have actually written about before…
around the same time Fr Knapp, the German priest,
came to see with his own eyes, then came to write down his interactions
and observations…
but yet this is a story that is still exceedingly timely and necessary to hear.

My origianal post is from March of 2015 and is more informative
than what is offered here today…as it includes a 60 Minutes segment in which
Lara Logan had also gone to visit the region in order to see and hear
first hand the plight of this particular group of ancient Christians.

The post offers images and insight into the barbarism used by ISIS to systematically annihilate this last vestige of the original Christians who have existed in this
region since both the death and resurrection of Christ.

Regarding the book…I have not yet had a chance to delve into it…
but from what I have gleaned from the tantalizing tidbits…
this will be not only a very important tale to Christians but also a hugely important
story for historians, Jews as well as Muslims…as it actually determines the course
of humanity.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/blood-of-the-lamb/

And perhaps ironically today, as I was thinking about these first Christians who are
lined up to be the last of their kind, I caught a very brief, like all of 2 minute,
video clip of an interview of sorts given by the Reformed Presbyterian Minister David Robertson—
a clip where he is responding to the question of
‘How does the existence of Evil undermine the atheistic worldview?

Pastor Robertson notes that in the mind of an atheist, the existence of Evil
is a clear sign that there is no God.
As they will rationalize that if there was a God,
He would in turn be all powerful and therefore He could and would prevent all Evil….
So since there is Evil, there is obviously no God.

Yet on the flip side of all of that is how then does the atheist define Evil
with no moral absolutes?
If there are no rules, no judgements, no afterlife, no God, no way of resolving
or dealing with Evil, how does the atheist actually deal with the concept of
evil in any sort of defining way.
The answer… He cannot.

So the non believer has a conundrum…with the mindset of ‘well, since there is no
God and Evil isn’t Evil, we might as well just live it up….

This as humankind wrestles with what to do about the historic and epic genocides…atrocities which have taken place throughout all of time.

And so you are now asking as to why I would write about such during this time of
Advent—a time of all things full of Expectancy, Anticipation and Christmas…
a time that is to be of softness, love and dare we say, hope…
Why should we worry ourselves over the ugliness of reality as those are problems
not on our particular or given radar—things that are happening over there some
place and out of sight.

Why write about the annihilation of Aramaic Christians, atheists and their fight for disbelief and the very concept of Evil….

‘Please not here, not now, not at Christmas…’ we are each heard to lament.

Well it actually is because it is Advent and the Christmas season that we should be
and need to be most mindful of such….

As those of us who confess to be Believers must not find ourselves falling
into the hole of secularism and the Societal notion of Christmas…
of which we have done.

This secular celebration of all things Christmas that is currently in all
its full glory and regalia is lulling us into a time of contented ignorant bliss.

And just as I reminded us in Tuesday’s Meat and Potatoes post….
this time of year is particularly very loud and very noisy…for a reason…

Do you not think that there is one who delights in the pure distraction
from what is to be our Truth?

Advent….
yes…
be ready,
be watching,
be waiting…
for there are epic things taking place all the while as we busy ourself with
the minutia of the moment while missing the importance of the day…

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.

Isaiah 14:12-15

a tenacious lot

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin,
but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

Harper Lee


(ice and snow encrusted Camilla / Julie Cook / 2017)

Remember the picture of the yard sign I shared on Friday??
That ‘Southern State of Mind’ Georgia Bulldog yard sign??
A yard sign that was quickly accumulating snow?
Well this is what it looked like once the snows ended Saturday…..

We Southerners do like our “weather.”
And we love to both fuss and cuss it….
Be it good or bad.

All kinds of weather.

We will complain about the heat.
We will lament about the humidity.
We will run and hide, with good reason, at the first sign of a tornado.
We will grumble about the lack or rain…
Just as we will grouse over its abundance.

But throw a little sleet, ice or snow our way and it’s all but
Katy bar the door..

We will get practically giddy at the first mention of anticipated snow…

As visions of serene images of Currier and Ives dance like magical
sugarplums round our anticipating heads.
Horse drawn carriages gliding effortlessly through the snow, as bells merrily jingle
while both adults and kids alike race joyously to build snowmen.

Children and teachers alike sit glued to weather reports, praying the Weatherman
will grant that ever so hoped for wish…the announcement of No School..
as everyone races for a homemade sled…mother’s favorite cookie pan….

However all of this wonderment quickly dissipates the minute the roads ice over,
the pine trees bend to the ground and snap under the heavy weight of all
the frozen precipitation…as the temperatures dip in to the teens, transformers blow
like popcorn, and the lights all go out…

as in out for days….

For suddenly there are no more fun and games as all things have
jumped to drastically frightfully serious in the twinkling of an eye…

Yet under all that frightfully messy winter…
Just like our much maligned yet prevalent Kudzu….
we remain…ever tenacious…

It’s what we do…
We might wilt a bit, panic a tad, slip slid into every ditch imaginable…
but we will always come back strong….
Just wait until April to see just who’s looking good!!!!

For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for
you against your enemies to give you victory.

Deuteronomy 20:4

erring and snow

“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness
in the proportion.”

Edgar Allan Poe


(a foot of snow blankets the yard / Julie Cook / 2017)

Whereas this unexpected early December Southern Snow has blanketed us with a
deep white blanket of mystical silence and stillness…it has not come without
a wealth of woe….

The school systems in and around the Atlanta metro area…north and westward…
school systems who usually err on the side of caution actually decided to listen
to our meteorologists who glibly reported that,
whereas it looked as if there would be some snow….,
we’d been so warm up to now that any snow would be fleeting.
A lite dusting that wouldn’t stick to roadways or driveways as it had just been
simply too warm for any real need for worry.

In other words, a short lived event.

This was to be taking place on Friday.

So on Friday, everyone opted to go about life as normal…
This is the deep South you know….we don’t really worry about winter weather
this time of year.

And so right on que the rains came, turning eventually over to snow.

And then it snowed and it snowed, and it kept on snowing…..

The schools scrambled and quickly decided that perhaps they should release the hounds students…
And so we had everyone in a myriad of counties all starting to unleash madness
upon the roadways all at the same staggering times.
Staggered releases seemed to be the best option…yet it was still snowing…hard.
Snow and ice were beating the release times.

Buses found it impossible to deliver their tender cargo as the snow and ice
were blanketing roadways…making traveling up and down hills impossible.

Our very pregnant daughter-n-law, who teaches here in our county but lives in Atlanta,
opted to come to our house verses trying to navigate the snowy icy interstates back
home to Atlanta as the News was painting a terrible traffic picture.

A typical 15 minute drive to our house from her school actually took her 2 hours…
as cars were now slip sliding away.
In fact my husband had to go meet her a mile from our house as cars had simply stopped
in their tracks on the roads as others had landed in the ditches and she was stuck in
the middle. It took him 30 minutes to get to her…a drive that should have taken two minutes.

Meanwhile, limbs were falling left and right in Atlanta.
It is a city known for her plethora of beautiful trees…yet snow and ice are not
kind to trees.

A snow laden limb fell on our son and daughter-n-laws house,
literally ripping out the power lines from the house….lines now laying dangerously
across the lawn.

GA Power has come to access the issue and now needs one of their certified
electricians to come out and reconnect the lines into the house before
they can re-run the lines from the pole to the house…
lest all things blow up.

Our son, dad’s cat and the grand dog are hunkering down in the dark, without heat
as the temperatures plunge down into the teens….
waiting for word of this elections.

This as I watched today those who really suffer through these sorts
of weather events…the animals…
as well as those who have no shelter to call their own…

As God watches over both animal and man who remain without….


(notice to the left of the two bulls, the wee head peering out from the crack
in the dilapidated barn)


(the poor cold bulls / Julie Cook / 2017)

But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Psalm 5:11

the mystery in misty memories

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved
and where all your yesteryears are buried deep,
leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can.
Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour
because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones,
vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud,
formidable from a distance.”

Beryl Markham


(a misty rising of the superman / Julie Cook / 2017)

Whispers slip out between scented branches…
caught lingering between the twinkling lights.

Each bauble, each ball, each special tangible memory calls out from ages past…
transporting the now to the then.

Broken, chipped, bent or faded…it matters not–
the flood of what once was cascades down upon the unexpected.

Voices long since silenced are suddenly as clear as a bell…
as a clock chimes upon a stocking draped mantle.

Each reopened box, each unearthed trinket,
dusty and now worse for the wear from the years of in and out,
dangles precariously on a needle encrusted branch…
bridging both space and time…yet caught between a sea of red and green.

A story line begins to unravel….as a tale of love, loss and even hope sits
arranged ever just so, inviting all to come behold.

For good or bad, we begin again…
Carrying on with and without…
and if we’re lucky, year in and year out…
As a Mystery breaks through the barriers of both life and death.

“The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty.
A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery.
We retain the child in us to the extent that we honor the mystery.
Therefore, children have open, wide-awake eyes,
because they know that they are surrounded by the mystery.
They are not yet finished with this world;
they still don’t know how to struggle along and avoid the mystery, as we do.
We destroy the mystery because we sense that here we reach the boundary
of our being,
because we want to be lord over everything and have it at our disposal,
and that’s just what we cannot do with the mystery…
Living without mystery means knowing nothing of the mystery of our own life,
nothing of the mystery of another person,
nothing of the mystery of the world;
it means passing over our own hidden qualities and those of others and the world.
It means remaining on the surface,
taking the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated
and exploited, and not going beyond the world of calculation and exploitation.
Living without mystery means not seeing the crucial processes of
life at all and even denying them.”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

up, down or through

“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth
and be an atheist,
but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say
there is no God.”

Abraham Lincoln

What I am looking for is not out there, it is in me.
Helen Keller

I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward.
Charlotte Bronte


(view looking up a hollow tree that has a small hole on the way up / Julie Cook /2017)


(looking down the opening to a different hollow tree / Julie Cook / 2017)


(looking through a third hollow tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

God looks down…
We look up…
He sees through…

Some writers use the word charity to describe not only Christian love
between human beings, but also God’s love for man and man’s love for God….
On the whole,
God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him.
Nobody can always have devout feelings:
and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about.
Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will.
If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment,
‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.’
He will give us feelings of love if He pleases.
We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right.
But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference;
and, therefore,
it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins,
at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 132-133.

all roads…do not lead to Heaven

I want to be a more serious-minded Christian, more detached from this world,
more ready for heaven than I have ever been in my whole life.
I want an ear that is sharp to know the voice of the enemy,
whether it comes from religion, politics, or philosophy…
I would rather stand and have everybody my enemy than to go along with the
crowd to destruction.
Do you feel that way?

Aiden Wilson Tozer


(massive trees fall across a dirt road / Troup Co / Julie Cook / 2017)

About a month back, following Hurricane Irma, this is what my husband and I found
on a piece of property located in the western Georgia area.

It’s a piece of property he’s enjoyed and maintained for the past 30 years for hunting, fishing, hiking, etc.

Nearly 400 acres of woods and former pasture land with a criss crossing maze of
trails and dirt roads…
Irma saw to it that one of the main roads to the backside of the property should be
blocked by downed trees.

The trees fell across the road from the adjoining neighbor’s land.

Removing the massive oaks would require some major equipment of which we didn’t have,
so the only option was to cut a new road.

Where I saw an impossible passage, my husband saw a brand new opening…
but one that was not readily available.

A new passage that would require some time and hard work on our parts….
Not to mention destroying a large yellow jacket’s nest underneath a massive rock
as well as battling ticks, mosquitoes and watching carefully for snakes.

Yet it was all part and parcel of a massive undertaking if we wanted to
reach the other side.

It took the two of us the better part of the day to first clear a path using
clopping shears, and a chainsaw…
eventually allowing for the tractor and bush hog to make a clear path.

I was reminded of this recent road cutting adventure yesterday after reading
the words offered by a dear friend from Ireland…

A wise friend who admonished me…warning me to be wary of words now being offered
in the name of God…
As in not all words that are currently being claimed by some seemingly knowledgeable individuals are words, as given in scripture, being that of God’s…
Words that are not God’s word to man….but are rather words man is taking as God’s
and twisting them to his own.

He reminded me that the world has a new gospel…
and with its new gospel the world has decreed that any and all roads will lead
to Heaven..it matters not.

My friend noted that it would behoove me, as it would behoove all the faithful,
to see and to understand that the world is now claiming its gospel path as
the road of inclusion…which is a very dangerous gospel at that…”

He encouraged me to trust no one with God’s word.
For the amount of false teachers is growing at such a fast and alarming rate with
this current new notion of the gospel of inclusion…
such that scripture and prayer are to be our only true guide…

Because these false teachers are each readily claiming that any and all roads lead to God..which is a very dangerous gospel thought.

As I am reminded that Jesus, not man, clearly taught us to…
“Enter through the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads
to destruction, and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,
and only a few find it.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
By their fruit you will recognize them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons
and in your name perform many miracles?’
Then I will tell them plainly,
‘I never knew you.
Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matthew 7:13-22