choose to be in love…

“Where love is, there God is”
Leo Tolstoy


(vibrancy found at the garden center / Julie Cook / 2017)

“Our greatest danger is not our sins, but our indifference.
We must be in love with God.
All other loves pale in comparison.
Our nature is not built for so strong a love, so we must change our nature.

All other loves I have must be a sample of the love of God.
All the world and everything in it must be sample of the love of God

When we say that we love God with our whole heart, it means whole.
We must love only God.
And that sets up the triangle—
God, the soul, the world.”

Dorothy Day

the collision of life and dying….

“I believe O God,
help thou my unbelief….”

Dorothy Day


(Julie Cook / 2017)

I still have a great deal that I want to share about the last two weeks that Dad and I spent
together….however the time is just not yet ripe…

Too much is now pressing and weighing in as I still find myself having to journey
back and forth…albeit not every single day…
taking care of business that is now snowballing faster then I care for….

Yet despite these larger than life looming worries found in the act of both dying and death,
I continue wading through the musings and thoughts of Dorothy Day…
And how timely it is that I should stumble upon her own reflections of her time spent
by the bedside of her dying mom…

“It almost seems that one is absorbed in a struggle, a fearful, grim, physical struggle,
to breathe, to swallow, to live.
And so, I kept thinking to myself, how necessary it is
for one of their loved ones to be beside them, to pray for them,
to offer up prayers for them unceasingly,
as well as to do all this little offices once can…

In reading Dorothy’s own words of the interaction she had with the last
moments of her mother’s life,
I was taken by the similar thoughts that I held as I kept my vigil with Dad…

I found myself actually timing his breaths….
and when I didn’t think he’d taken a breath as I thought he should,
I stared with an almost laser intent vision at his chest checking to see I could
still see the heart beating through his now thin body and translucent skin.

I watched him laboring to swallow as his eyes, now cloudy and glazed, would roll back
then vainly attempt to focus on the sound of a nearby voice…
Muscles involuntarily twitching as the toxins overtook what oxygen remained in the blood.

All the while the unrelenting conversations with God continued unabated.

I was keenly aware, as I sat in the stillness of his room, of the mysterious,
yet rocketing forces of both life and death…hurdling at a ferocious and devastating speed…
colliding simultaneously into one another….with dad smack in the middle…

It was, it is, a struggle between both life and death.
A most fierce tug-o-war…
All the while a scared and mystical transition of power was actually taking place.

Our natural earthly instinct is to fight….
just as in birth we are implored to breathe..
In death we fight for the very last breath…
for we do not, will not, go peacefully from this realm of which we have grown so accustomed….

And yet, when the final moment does come for us to relinquish…our very beings…
as it always does…for there is no choice when that time does indeed come….
there is a tremendous release…
as if a heavy sigh is expelled after completing some sort of most strenuous physical task..
something so demanding and so arduous…
that when it is finally finished, a resulting sense of both exhaustion and
satisfaction ensues…

That feeling of being totally spent yet simultaneously feeling totally content…

And so it is the Psalmist who so sweetly, yet so aptly, expresses the
true underlying yearning found in the center of that life ending and life beginning
seismic collision….

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

(Psalm 42:1-2)

atonement for the crowd

“Without any censorship,
in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those
which are not fashionable;
nothing is forbidden,
but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books
or be heard in colleges.
Legally your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


(stampede of horses / courtesy wikipedia)

Stampedes are a frighting phenomena…
large gatherings of animals or humans, seemingly docile and clam,
with each creature or being in its own little world….
that is….
until a few in the crowd get spooked…
spooked by some real threat or something merely perceived as a threat…

It’s then Katie bar the door as each creature is now running and racing
for it’s life as it’s now every beast, or man, for itself….
too bad if you get caught up underfoot—it just wasn’t your lucky day.

Crowds are not great at perception.
They tend to disregard the subtleties of detail.
The mentality of the mob tends to take precedence…be it good or bad,
And since the crowd becomes its own entity, its mentality in turn rules.

Ever been that lone voice in the wilderness?
If so, then you get the idea—-

The crowd tends not to hear you over the din of its own self obsession, chattiness or chants….
And who wants to be the odd man out when the crowd leans one away while you’re alone
leaning the other way….

And so my thoughts turn to that of another crowd….
long ago…

“Crucify the Nazarene” they shout.
“Free Barabas” they demand….

As a lone procurator stands before a potential violent onslaught of the skewed
mentality of the crowd…
Best to placate the beast, lest you’re torn apart….
Yet there is no atonement to be found in the the placation or appeasement of the crowd….

“In Christ’s human life, there were always a few who made up for the neglect of the crowd.
The shepherds did it;
their hurrying to the crib atoned for the people who would flee from Christ.
The wise men did it;
their journey across the world made up for those who refused to stir one hand’s breadth from
the routine of their lives to go to Christ.

Even the gifts the wise men brought have in themselves an obscure recompense and atonement
for what would follow later in this child’s life.

For they brought gold, the king’s emblem,
to make up for the crown of thorns that he would wear;
they offered incense, the symbol of praise,
to make up for the mockery and the spitting;
they gave him myrrh, to heal and soothe,
and he was wounded from head to foot and no one bathed his wounds.
The women at the foot of the cross did into,
making up for the crowd who stood by and sneered.

We can do it too, exactly as they did.
We are not born too late.
We do it by seeing Christ and serving Christ in friends and strangers,
in everyone we come in contact with.”

Dorothy Day

Righteous activistism

“I really only love God as much as I love the person
I love the least.”

Dorothy Day

I know that God is really good at giving us a kick in the pants when it is most needed…
and maybe I’m at the place where I might need that kick….
For you see this little book in the above picture, arrived in the mail about a week ago,
right in the midst of when things were coming to a head with Dad.

We had his funeral Wednesday and it was truly lovely…
and I’ll talk about all of that at some point in the near future…
but for now, I just need decompress a bit…

I’ve told friends that I’ve yet to really mourn or grieve as I know I should and
really need to….
but because life is still demanding a great deal of me and my time…
that grieving and morning are simply on hold…

But soon that too will come.

I did however actually visit the grocery store today, stocking back up on real
food for our house.
Yet I almost fell apart walking past the candy section…
which was just up from the soups and broths…

As everyone knows I always had to buy Dad chocolate…
However, sadly in the end, even his desire for chocolate waned.
The last thing I was privileged to feed him was a requested bowl of chocolate ice cream
3 days before he died.

He couldn’t utter words but he could move his lips..
I could tell he wanted something and so I ran through a litany of what that could be,
when I said ice-cream, his eyes sparkled wide…

But as I say, more about all of that later…

It’s time now for a little diversion…

So back to the book…

My editor friend at Plough Publishing House is good to me…as she sends books that she
thinks I will enjoy pursuing…

So my interest was piqued when I opened the latest envelope and saw the little book
on Dorothy Day.
I confess… about all I knew about Dorothy Day was that she was an ardent Catholic
covert and what I’d call a Holy and Righteous activist.

This little book is not an autobiography but rather focuses on Dorothy’s thoughts…
on those almost mystical inner musings, worries, concerns and yearnings.
For as ardent as she was to be that living example of Christ…
she also suffered from those moments that St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross
so clearly share….that being of the Dark night of the Soul….

So I immediately felt as if there was a strong connection between both Dorothy Day
and Mother Teresa.
I don’t know if these two soldiers of Christ ever knew of one another during their lifetimes…
but they were certainly two souls cut from the same cloth.

I’ve not had much of an opportunity to wade very deeply into the book but one
of the first sentences by Dorothy that I read was
“if you have two coats, you must have stolen one from the poor”

That one sentence resonated deeply with me—for I have more than one coat.

So I will keep today’s post brief by leaving you with food for thought offered by
our friend Dorothy…

Faith came before understanding.
And Faith is a gift of God.
It cannot be imparted by any other person.
I cannot give it to you.
Only God.

You are certainly going through the sorrowful mysteries.
But if you don’t go through them to the glorious,
you will be a hollow man and considered an opportunist and a fraud…

Certainly good words to chew on during these final weeks of Lent……

Gone home….


(a table in my son’s home—his tribute to his grandfather)

Dad passed away last night—it was 11:42 when I was called.
We’d spent the day with him and my son was with him last around 9:30 PM
His earthly journey complete…his pain and suffering no more.
As I drove back over for the second time that day, just past midnight,
I was swept over by a sense of calm knowing Dad was finally
with Mother.

I had written the following post after sitting with him yesterday.
I think it still important to share…
But just know that death has once again been overcome by
Life!

Edward Dale Nichols
March 10, 1928—March 19, 2017

Thank you all for your love, prayers and support….

it’s never like the movies

“The truth is that you can never be sure if you have decided on the right thing until
the party is over,
and by then it is too late to go back and change your mind,
which is why the world is filled with people doing terrible things”

Lemony Snicket

Hollywood loves to pat itself on the back for its ability to create
iconic and memorable snippets of life…
With some of the most captivating moments being those dramatic scenes of both death and dying.

A quick little Google search of iconic death scenes and you get anything from Alien
to Bambi, while my generation most likely thinks Love Story…
with it’s now immortalized tag line,
“love is never having to say your sorry….”

But anyone who has ever been involved in any sort of real life relationship knows that that
particular little Hollywood dribble is just a bunch of crap…
but of course, I digress….

No matter what overtly dramatized film moment you may happen to recall when thinking
classic death / dying scene…
be it an endearing tearjerker like in Titanic or a graphically
gory melee of any epic war picture,
nothing quite compares to the real life drama found in the balance between
true living and dying

Take the above image of the coffee filter filled with fresh dark roasted coffee beans…

Your brain registers that you’re looking at a coffee filter filled with coffee beans…
and because of what you know about coffee beans,
you’re pretty safe assuming that there is a strong aroma associated with the beans…
However you can’t actually smell them.

Captured images just don’t processes a smell-o-rama capability.

You see the beans….
you know they have a very strong enticing smell…
but….
because they’re sitting on a screen, you only experience them with just one sense…
that of sight.

Now Hollywood works hard on a viewer’s senses of both sight and sound in order to
coax out a physical reaction…they’ll happily surmise that they’ve been succeessful if
they think that they’ve made a viewer “feel”…
be it a physical reaction from laughing to crying to even nausea….

Yet for all their special effects, they lack the sense of smell.
And the truth be told, they lack reality.

Because whereas art tries to imitate life, it will always fall short.

Now you know with your eyes and brain that the two images here of,
first the coffee beans and now a fresh bouquet of flowers,
each have a distinct aroma or smell….
but…
you can’t actually smell them by looking at them on your screen.

You can’t touch them or hear them or smell them.

You’re just working off your previous associations…

Nothing can prepare you for reality…but reality.
The nitty gritty touch, taste, hearing, seeing, smell, feel of raw reality.

Dad’s room is now filled with coffee filters filled with coffee beans.
Not because he ever greatly appreciated coffee…
but because the Hospice nurse told us it would help with the smell.

The overwhelming smell of decay because oddly the body will fall apart quite frankly
before we’re exactly finished using it.
As in the body will begin to simply erode, decay and die while we’re still hanging on…
with the end result not being a pretty picture.

Dying is so much worse then what we see in the movies.

For there is much more to it then a Hollywood script…
For it has graphic sights as well as unpleasant sounds and sickening scents…
things that never should be imitated because the reality it simply too overwhelming.

Yet in all of this….
what I know to be true is that our bodies are merely borrowed earthly vessels in which
our souls reside before we are freed from them in order to go home as it were.

Yes I believe this.

It is nearly impossible to watch and be a part of…this eroding, this wasting…
what with the sounds, sights and smells….
because our human brains and emotions are so limited…

This body is all we have known….it is what we have seen age over the years.
It is has come to represent what and who we love, who we cherish, who we hold on to,
who we cling to…who we associate our very beings with….

It is the tangible while our God is not tangible.
It only makes sense that we anguish over its demise.

And yet, in the graphic sights, sounds and smells there remains something far greater
then the decay of age or disease..

For there once was a body that had been so grossly damaged, so horrifically abused as
it had died a slow and agonizing death.
Later it was to be washed and cleaned…
anointed with sweet oils, aloes and spices before being
wrapped in freshly woven flaxen linens.

Yet following three days, more spices were brought to be added to the tomb—
a tomb that was by now assumed to be filled with the overwhelming
stench of human decay and rot…

However, that was not the case….

For within that dark enclosure—a seismic shift of time occurred…
where once life had simply slipped away and become death….
here in this dark enclosure, death had become life…

And so now we wait amongst the coffee beans…for death, to become, life….

“No tabloid will ever print the startling news that the mummified body of
Jesus of Nazareth has been discovered in old Jerusalem.
Christians have no carefully embalmed body enclosed in a glass case to worship.
Thank God, we have an empty tomb. The glorious fact that the empty tomb
proclaims to us is that life for us does not stop when death comes.
Death is not a wall, but a door.”

Peter Marshall

see you at the pig….

“The paradise of my fancy is one where pigs have wings”
― G.K. Chesterton

The pig and the chicken were on their way to breakfast,
trying to decide what to have.
When chicken said,
“Let’s have ham and eggs.”
The pig then replied,
“That’s fine for you,
it’s a small donation on your part,
but it’s a total sacrifice for me.”

anonymus


(my view on the interstate / Julie Cook / 2017)

As most of you know, my corner of the world has been anything but happy.
Dad is hanging on by a thread…on a very much borrowed thread of time…
And given that it is all just a terrible time, I’ll spare you the dreadful details…

Plus, I am just very very tired…

However…

I learned long ago that it is in the little things found in life that we can truly
find a little piece of happiness and or comfort…

So while I was mindlessly moving onto the ramp to merge from I-20 to 285
Thursday morning, I suddenly realized that the happiest of faces was actually smiling…
at me!!
Nobody smiles on the interstate and to be honest,
I can’t remember the last time I actually
saw a genuine happy smile coming my way….

When I finally tuned in and focused one the back of the tractor trailer truck
in front of me, I saw the Piggly Wiggly Pig smiling and happily inviting me to visit
his neck of the woods..
It was then that I actually felt my face move…as in I too started to smile.

And naturally I had to take a picture because I wanted to share this momentary slice of
happiness with someone else who might just need a smile coming their way as well!

So here’s to happy smiles…
which in this case just so happens to be courtesy of the Piggly Wiggly Pig!
May you receive some genuine smiles your way today!!

(also, I’d like to dedicate this pig to both Wally and Kathy—sooouuuiiiieeeeee)

I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.

Psalm 34:4-5

impossible seperation

“Wherever an altar is found,
there civilization exists.”

Joseph de Maistre


( guillotine located in the Museum of the Basilica of the Holy Blood / Bruges, Belgium / Julie Cook / 2011)

There is nothing like a good ol revolution followed by the feeding frenzy of the lopping off
of heads to turn one’s thoughts to say, a more conventional path to life….
Or so it seems to have been so for the author of today’s quote.

A life, shall we say, consisting of the anchors of morality sprinkled with a steady dose of
conservatism….particularly if one was previously giddy over a life of anarchy and wanton
enlightened liberalism.

Yet it seems that time and time again…
man precariously rides the ever swinging pendulum of time,
swinging both left and right….
as he works to swing himself ever closer to living life simply fast and furious
while claiming to be both footloose and fancy free…

However the pendulum will always come back to the elephant in the room…
that being…. man verses a Divine Creator…

Deny and decry as oft man does….
As ego and pride take center stage as the masters of all that is,
societies will continue going to hell in a hand basket.

All the while as everyone is busying themselves… trying to separate the notion of morality
from Western Civilization’s Christian / Judaeo lynchpin….
which is like trying to separate the moon from the night sky….

It has always seemed to me completely inconsistent that existentialism should deny the
existence of God and then proceed to use the language of theism to persuade men to live right.
The French writer, Jean-Paul Sartre, for instance,
states frankly that he represents atheistic existentialism.
“If God does not exist,” he says, “we find no values or commands to turn to which
legitimize our conduct.
So in the bright realm of values, we have no excuse behind us, nor justification before us.
We are all alone, with no excuses.”
Yet in the next paragraph he states bluntly,
“Man is responsible for his passion,” and further on,
“A coward is responsible for his cowardice.”
And such considerations as these, he says, fill the existentialist with “anguish,
forlornness and despair.”
It seems to me that such reasoning must assume the truth of everything it seeks to deny.
If there were no God there would be no such words as “responsible.”
No criminal need fear a judge who does not exist;
nor would he need to worry about breaking a law that had not been passed.
It is the knowledge that the law and the judge do in fact exist that strikes fear
to the lawbreaker’s heart.
There is someone to whom he is accountable;
otherwise the concept of responsibility could have no meaning.

A.W. Tozer