How do I contact you in Heaven?

If you tell God no because He won’t explain the reason He wants you to do
something, you are actually hindering His blessing.
But when you say yes to Him, all of heaven opens to pour out His
goodness and reward your obedience.
What matters more than material blessings are the things
He is teaching us in our spirit.

Charles Stanley


(my godpoppa and me on the day of my wedding–with Mother looking on,
he was the priest who presided over my wedding in 1983)

I use to write letters.

Real letters with a real pen and real paper.

Real words.

Real scratched out mistakes.

Numerous misspellings.
Typos.
Grammatical errors.

There was no spell check—only a dictionary.

Sometimes your letters were typed, sometimes written by hand.

Mine were always by hand.

I use to write you so many letters.

You use to write to me as well.

I still have a box with so many of those letters and cards.

If the truth be told, we really meet through a letter, you and me.
In 1975.

I still have the card you sent.

When I went away to college, I use to sit at the bus stop writing feverishly before the bus arrived,
whisking me off to yet another class miles across campus.

I’d sit in the park, back propped against an ancient oak tree, writing.

I sat up late on the night before my wedding, writing.

We wrote one another long before there were computers…
ages before there was texting.

We wrote on paper and cards.
We put stamps on envelopes and we put letters in a post box.

We would each excitedly spot that telltale script…written and addressed
with our name—
it would arrive in the day’s mail.

I checked my box at least twice a day.

Wonderment and even excitement filled our thoughts.

We’d each steal away…to a quiet private place as we’d tear open the postmarked envelope.
Savoring the “Dearest Jules” or the ‘Dearest Godpoppa”

Apprehensive and anticipatory wonder mixed with anxiousness…
coupled with a deep sense of joy…
accompanied the arrival of each letter and every card.

What was the word?
What was the news?
What was the need?
What was the advice?

We wrote for nearly 40 years…back and forth…just you and me.

The subject matter growing often hard and difficult with time.

Those letters…the writing and the receiving.
The intimate words shared between a surrogate father and his adopted goddaughter.

The pouring out of the most sacred and secretive thoughts from the novice to the wizened
sage.

Confessions.
Encouragement.
Idle chatter.
Hope.
Love.
Compassion.
Warnings.
Advice.

You were born in 1922
You were adopted in 1923.
I was born in 1959
I was adopted in 1960

Lessons taught and lessons learned.

And yet now, now when I need to hear from you the most, how do I write to Heaven?
How do I address such a letter?
What would you tell me now…how do I proceed?
What should I do?
What would you say?

I’ll be waiting…and I’ll be listening.
Somehow I know you know.

“Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you;
and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire.

Deuteronomy 4:36

drawn to God, He is waiting for you

“If you wish to strengthen your confidence in God still more,
often recall the loving way in which He has acted toward you,
and how mercifully He has tried to bring you out of your sinful life,
to break your attachment to the things of earth and draw you to His love.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori


(gull / Rosemary Beeach, FL / Julie Cook)

“God will forgive you if you ask him to.
Though your sins be numerous as the grains of sand on the shore,
God’s merciful forgiveness is far greater than your sins.
Do not be afraid. Trust in his love.
Repent of your sins without delay and return to the house of the Father.
He is waiting for you.”

Patrick Madrid, p.15
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Bible

the right side of history…where will we be?

The history of the West is built on the interplay between these two pillars:
Divine meaning and reason. We receive our notions of Divine meaning from a
three-millennial-old lineage stretching back to the ancient Jews; we receive
our notions of reason from a twenty-five-hundred-year-old lineage stretching
back to the ancient Greeks.
In rejecting those lineages–in seeking a graft ourselves to rootless philosophical comments
of the moment, cutting ourselves off from our own roots—
we have damned ourselves to an existential wandering.

Ben Shapiro


(Michaelangelo’s God from The Sistine Chapel)

And we’re also remembering the guiding light of our Judeo/Christian tradition.
All of us here today are descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
sons and daughters of the same God.
I believe we are bound by faith in our God, by our love for family and neighborhood,
by our deep desire for a more peaceful world, and by our commitment to protect the freedom
which is our legacy as Americans.

Ronald Reagan, Former U.S. President (1980-1988)

I had to take my husband to the hospital yesterday for a nuclear stress test–
the glowing type of test I suppose.

So while I sat for my near four hours, I had the foresight to carry a new book with me…
The Right Side of History
How Reason and Moral Purpose Made The West Great

by Ben Shapiro

Ben Shapiro is, if you’ve never seen nor heard him, is a young sharp cookie.
Not like this cookie here in cookieland…but a much younger and much smarter cookie.
A good kosher cookie.

Ben is a 35-year-old Orthodox Jew.
He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, a married man with two young children.
He also happens to be a conservative commentator which labels him as persona non grata
or better, a pariah.
An outcast from what is considered our progressive liberal mainstream society.

Each time I’ve had the opportunity to catch an interview featuring Ben as a guest,
I have been greatly impressed with his views, data, and points.

His interviews are reminiscent of when I was teaching high school and was listening to our
debate team kids engaging in debate “presentations”.
Barely discernable facts spouted off at the speed of light.
It took a gift of keen listening in order to keep up.

Ben tends to spout off his facts in that same machinegun type of fashion.

Yet in Ben’s case, he has had built quite the resume of political journalistic prowess.

And so I sat in that lovely waiting room with its lone TV on the game show channel,
with my trusty highlighter in hand…that was until it ran dry.
I then grabbed a pen out of my purse and went to town.

At the beginning of this latest book, Ben recalled a moment when his wife once asked him
if he was happy.

Now being the smart young husband that he is…
Ben readily noted that when a spouse,
in particular one’s wife, asks if you’re happy…that can be a dangerously loaded question.

He shared that she asked this question during a rather stressful period in their lives—
their children were young and naturally required, as children do, lots of time and attention.
His wife had a career as a doctor while he was in the early stages of working with
his business partner trying to get their website and podcast venture off the ground–
all the while traveling the country, busy with speaking engagements.

Ben took the question deeper… to that of a question as to when was he was the most happiest—
and that answer was found on the Sabbath.

Ben is an Orthodox Jew who cuts off the world for 25 hours each weekend when he
and his small family take time to observe the Sabbath.

No TV
No computer
No work
No politics.

Only God, then family.

He recalls a traditional Jewish saying…
“the Jews didn’t keep the Sabbath, the Sabbath kept the Jews”

Ben makes the point that politics is not the driving force for his happiness despite
the fact that it is the pursuit of politics that is where he makes his living…
yet it is the same revelation that our founding fathers also knew.
Our faith is our root—not our politics.
A root that came to us on Mt Sinai.

However this is where we’ll stop for the time being.
Whetting your whistle.

This is a meaty book—
a book that is steeped not only in our Nation’s history but steeped in that of
Western Civilization’s root history–
the history of both our Western Civilization and that of our Judeo/ Christian roots.

A root system we have taken for granted as we are currently watching its erosion.

Like I say—more to share in the coming days…

“Lasting happiness can only be achieved through cultivation of soul and mind.
And cultivating our souls and minds requires us to live with moral purpose.”

Ben Shapiro

see, hear then seek….

It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.
Mother Teresa


(image courtesy the web)

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—-
I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is the Messiah,the Lord.
This will be a sign for you:
you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,
praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds
said to one another,
“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the child lying in the manger.
When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child;
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.
But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen,
as it had been told them.

Luke 2:8-20

Imagine yourself a rather lonely shepherd sitting watch throughout a long dark night.
Your livelihood is your herd of sheep.
It’s how you make money.
It’s how you care for your family.
It’s how you feed your family.
As your sheep’s existence depends upon you and your existence depends
upon your sheep.

During the passover,
you sell your sheep, the young lambs, to those who want to offer sacrifices for
their faith.
Your sheep are important to you as they are important to the faithful.

You lead the sheep to fertile fields for feeding, you sheer them when its time,
you keep count of the ewes, rams and lambs and you watch out for any predators.

Sheep need tending to—they are considered to be defenseless animals as well as
not very bright or smart.

They eat, sit, stand, sleep…. and they run.
They run if they sense trouble—that’s about the extent of their defenses.
They do not take a stand.
They will not fight to the death.
And they don’t always run far or totally out of harm’s way.
They will scatter, not knowing how to find their way back to the herd.
A lone sheep is a defenseless sheep.
Their adversary is more stealthy, faster and more determined and knows how
to disperse a herd.

So sheep need a shepherd.
They need an overseer.
And thus the shepherd keeps watch, both day and night.
Yet it is in the night that the shepherd must be more keen to watch because
predators prefer to do their hunting in the dark of night.

There are only a few out this night, watching.
Most likely it is you and a few relatives, as this has been how your family has made a living since you grandfather’s father and his father before him made their way.
Maybe tonight it’s just you and your brother-n-law, or maybe it’s an uncle and a cousin
who have joined you during this dark lonely night.

Each of you pull the woolen blankets tighter around your shoulders because the air is
more chilly then usual.
The herd seems a bit agitated.
Do they smell a predator?
Have they heard something edging its way closer?

The moon is not full yet the night sky is oddly bright.
You scan the sprawling and now eerily lit field, looking for any sort of movement.

Looking upward into the inky night sky, you notice a single star casting an
unusual intense direct light.
Are your eyes playing tricks or is the night slowly becoming more like day?
Looking toward to where the light is cast, you can actually make out the far-off
silhouette of Bethlehem—because the star seems to be directly over and actually illuminating the sleepy little quiet town.

You call your kinsmen to come close.
What do they make of the oddly lit sky.
What do they know of Bethlehem.
This town which bore the King David.

And just when you are pondering the oddity of this particular bright star, you are
suddenly aware that you are no longer alone.
It’s no longer just you, your relatives and the sheep on this lonely chilly night.

There is a multitude of beings you have never seen before.
Before you have time to even focus on what you are witnessing, they speak.

“Fear not” they say….

as you suddenly realize you actually have no fear.

They speak with authority and they explain the reason for the star.
They explain good news.
They explain a birth.
They explain salvation.
and not some sort of generic salvation, but….
your salvation.

In that your salvation has just been born and is to be tangibly found—
lying directly underneath the light from the very star that you had
noticed shining over the far distanced town of Bethlehem…..

Oddly you don’t feel the need to decipher or discern…you don’t feel confused or
disoriented.
You are neither overwhelmed or dismayed—rather you are fully alert and
in the minute…the only thing you feel is now a sense of urgency to go to
see this newly born “Salvation”….

As it is now to this star that you know you must now go….

And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
Daniel 12:3

free and self-determined…such is God

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
but in ourselves.”

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar


(hawthorn berries / Julie Cook / 2017)

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings,
but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people.
God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him;
rather, his way is beyond all comprehension,
free and self-determined beyond all proof.
Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels,
where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be.
There he confounds the reason of the reasonable;
there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be,
and no one can keep him from it.
Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous
that he does wonders where people despair,
that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous.
And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…
God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings.
God marches right in.
He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would
least expect them.
God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly,
the excluded, the weak and broken.”

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

Really???

Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot,
and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?

George Carlin


(as seen while I was driving to the grocery store / Julie Cook / 2017)

People crack me up…
well….
let me correct that….
I admit… I’ve actually been known to also crack myself up…

But today it wasn’t me, it was people…as in the random people out on the road.

If you’re anything like me,
especially now during the start of this season known more for
its madness than for anything truly Holy, religious, spiritual or even grateful….
you’re in your car a lot—driving.

Driving to visit, driving to work, driving to shop—
driving wherever it is you drive.
As in you just seem to be driving more than perhaps you normally would…
In part because during “this” season it’s when we seem to need to go more places,
do more things and see more sights than we normally would or do…
it’s just what we do.

So early this morning as I made a dash to the store, I was stopped at a red light,
behind the car whose image is inserted above.

I usually enjoy reading the stickers folks put on their cars.
Entertaining mindlessness as one sits held captive.

Of course if the stickers are foul or profane,
of which I have seen plenty of stickers that are offensive in one way or another….
I’m none too amused…
and actually if the truth be told,
offended by the thoughtlessness of the more selfish among us….

Yet generally speaking, the stickers provide a bit of cheap entertainment, idle mind filler, thought-provoking wonderment, contemplation or even an audible “amen” …
this as I waste the 4 to 5 minutes of life sitting at red lights or hours stuck
in stop and go traffic.

I’ve always said you could tell almost everything about a driver
from the stickers on their car—-

Whether or not they are young or old,
male or female,
Southern or not,
a fan of a particular college,
a veteran,
a republican,
a democrat,
a member of the green party,
a member of PETA,
a music fan,
a former POW,
a Purple Heart recipient,
a school supporter,
a proud parent or grandparent,
a Christian,
an Atheist,
a Gay,
a dog lover,
a cat lover,
an adopting parent,
a Humane Society supporter,
a relative of or an actual cancer survivor…
whether or not they are athletic,
whether they are into sports,
whether they love electrical linemen,
whether they live on a farm,
whether they drink beer–and usually which brand….
whether they love adventure,
love to hike,
love to bike,
simply love,
simply hate,
whether they are a doctor,
a nurse,
a teacher,
a boy scout,
a girl scout,
an Eagle scout,
a Starwars fan,
and even a guess as to their name as their initials are actually monogramed on
their car’s window—-kind of like a throwback sweater but not.

It gives a good bit of insight into who it is driving the nearly 4000 pound vehicle
in front of you….a friend or foe sort of vibe.

So imagine my curiosity when I actually focused and read the sticker on the car
in front of me this morning.

Now I’ve seen stickers that warn that ‘in case of rapture this car will be driving
dangerously and erratically, all by itself,
so everyone left in their cars need to watch out’—
or what about those stickers that state that God is the driver’s co-pilot…
I think I’d rather prefer that to read, ‘God is the pilot,
I’m just along for the ride’….

But Zombie Response Squad??? Really???

Was I to assume that there was an actual zombie rescue person in the car
in front of me?
What exactly does that mean their responsibility will be in case of an attack?
Was I to find some sort of comfort in knowing that little fact of their
expertise in all things zombie?

This as I remember there’s actually a truck here in town, riding around with
some sort of machine gun, real or not I do not know,
mounted in the bed of the truck with signs posted on either side of the truck–
“Zombie Assault Vehicle”.
As I begin to wonder what sort of town do I actually live in……

Nervously I look up and down the road…left then right…
They eat brains right???

As in do people really think Zombies are going to attack?
That Zombies are actually real?
That Senoia, Georgia’s claim to fame…The Walking Dead are actually alive and…ummm…dead and questionably well down in that small southern town?

Is that why we hear tales of preppers?
Is that why we hear tales of those militia who are hiding out in the mountains
and woods?

Is there something going on that I don’t know about during this season of
all things mad and crazy??
Maybe that’s why it’s called “black Friday”…
it’s a Government coverup because it’s really about some sort of Zombie apocalypse…

This as I just read another story that someone out there is certain the whole moon
landing was faked….

Well, it tis the season…. or so they say…
and remember…I think I read that Zombies like fruit cake…
So best to leave those ubiquitous seasonal goodies now hitting the grocery store shelves
out on the lawn….just to be on the safe side….

May you and your family have a joyful, grateful and even a bit of the humorous
Thanksgiving eve—- 🙂

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:11

fertile ground

“A sense of the divine presence and indwelling bears the soul towards heaven
as upon the wings of eagles.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

dscn4801
(a lone viola emerges out of nowhere, nestled between the rocks/ Julie Cook / 2017)

Spring is wanting to come early this year…
But Winter refuses to relinquish his time…
It’s an age old battle for the right to reign.

The surrounding landscape is still bathed in shades of grey, brown and
all things bare…
While the deer have nipped and eaten any and all remaining winterized vegetation…
As the armadillos have rooted out any hiding grub or tender waiting bulbs.

This is the time for transition.
It is a time waited upon anxiously…
As it is a time that has been manically hoped for and painfully longed for.

A time of turning the page from nothingness into a hint of newness.

All the while a cold wind blows and
Freeze warnings remain.
And pale white dry skin yearns for the flush of warm and radiant supple pink…

Yet hidden amongst the nooks of crags…
found in the hollowed-out crannies, wedged between the cold barren rocks..
a small and easily missed prophesy of growth takes a stand…

As we are left asking—
is fertile ground to be found anywhere within our hearts…

dscn4800

‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:
I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it;
I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and
lofty mountain.
On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it;
it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar.
Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches.
All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree
and make the low tree grow tall.
I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.

Ezekiel 17:22-24