Dreams, mysticism and God’s heart

I used unexpectedly to experience a consciousness of the presence of God, or such a kind that I could not possibly doubt that He was within me or that I was wholly engulfed in Him. This was in no sense a vision: I believe it is called mystical theology. The soul is suspended in such a way that it seems to be completely outside itself. The will loves; the memory, I think, is almost lost; while the understanding, I believe, thought it is not lost, does not reason—I mean that it does not work, but is amazed at the extent of all it can understand; for God wills it to realize that it understands nothing of what His Majesty represents to it.”
― Teresa of Ávila

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(anthurium / Julie Cook / 2014)

I believe that there are those who’s relationship with God is on a different level then the rest of us.
Those who have a more mystical relationship.
Those who experience visions.

Like Hildegard von Bingen, the 12th century German mystic nun, I have suffered most of my life from migraine headaches. Whereas historians have noted that Hidegard suffered from terrible headaches, as well as other certain “aliments,” which were often associated with her visions. . . my headaches have only come with the stop you in your tracks blinding strobe light auras coupled with excruciating pain and nausea. There was never any voices, visions or outer body experiences—despite my wishing I was out of my body at the onset of the headaches, no one ever spoke to me from the great beyond.

I have also been known to have rather vivid dreams during my sleep—and lest I remind you, woman my age are not known for sleeping—-however when I am fortunate enough to be asleep and experiencing my odd subconscious form of entertainment, there have never been any visions or divine visits of such, just very real palpable bizarre dreams.
I often wake from these dreams with very real and very intense emotions of both joy or sorrow, depending on the dream.

I also have a bad tendency to “talk” in my sleep during the bad dreams—more like mutter and groan as I am attempting to scream in my dreams— yet in the real world, the world of conscious husbands who have been woken up from sound asleep wives who are having outer body experiences, as I innocently lay there like a gyrating possessed clump totally immersed under the covers, there is a power play between the subconscious and the reality of the conscious raging in the stillness of a silent night.

On one such occasion, my poor husband tired of listening to these alienesque noises coming from his supposedly sleeping wife, attempted to shake me. I was so thankful that he did. In my dream I was in a dire predicament and so frustrated that I was unable to speak and/ or yell for help during the dreaming crisis that when he pushed me, waking me up, I finally let out a blood curdling scream. I never did understand why he got so upset. . .there I was finally happy to be out of danger and feeling so much better and relieved and he was upset, go figure—–
Such is the dilemma of the sleeping and the awake.

Night before last I was having the most lifelike dream fraught with a great deal of anguish.
An odd crazy dream yet most troubling.
It was a dream concerning our 26 year old son as a little boy. Some bad people who I know not, as I never actually saw them or him, had kidnapped him. It’s just one of those oddities about dreams. . .one doesn’t often “see” the situation at hand but yet is keenly aware of what has obviously transpired.
And I know that there are those out there who would love to get ahold of this dream—picking it, as well as me, apart explaining what in the heck it all means. . .but trust me, I have a few of my own ideas.

In my dream I had begged and pleaded with these bad people, whoever they were. I was a mother who was rife with grief, fear and sorrow. It was all so real and I was certainly in a terribly bad place. However as luck would have it, I was “shoved” back to reality by a sleep deprived annoyed husband who had no idea that with his shaking of his dreaming wife, he had saved the day by ending the grave drama playing out in my subconscious.

I had tears streaming down my face and I was visibly upset.
I laid there a long time afterwards thankful I had been woken up and wondering what in the heck that dream was all about.
Oh I’m sure it has something to do with the frustration of my son’s being in a tough spot in his life right now and with me, as his mom, helpless to “fix things”—only as mothers so often feel they must do.

As I wondered, staring out in the dark, as to what sort of lesson I was to be learning from just one in a litany of life’s good and bad dreams, the thought of God as parent came to the forefront of my thoughts.
There I was in my dream—a desperate mom battling to save my child. I was besides myself with frustration and grief of the heart that I was unable to stop the bad things from happening to my child—when the thought occurred to me of how frustrated and sorrowful God must often be with us His children.

I was overcome thinking of the sorrow shed by a Father who loves with a love beyond my own comprehension of what love truly is, such that He must shed many tears over us.
There are those who argue that God, if He is God and is this all powerful entity that so many of us say He is, that He should just be able to do a little of that abracadabra business of His and poof, we’re all good. There are those who see the bad things happen, for no apparent reason, and therefore proclaim that if He is God and if He is really up there then He could indeed do something to stop the badness down here. . .and since He does not nor chooses not to do so, then He much not exist.

A long time ago, humankind severed a life line
A link, or more like a major artery, between life and death had been destroyed.
The bond was broken.
The separation was set in motion.
The world became void of Hope.
God, the Omnipotent, the Alpha and the Omega, watched Love fall into an abyss.

And yet, God knew, in order to save humankind, to be able to allow the continuum to the link of everlasting Love, He would have to allow and then watch His own Son, fall into that same empty black abyss.
A torn heart which was a swirling elixir of emotions of pain and sorrow on a scale not grasped by man, blanketed all of creation.
Raw grief and pain unimaginable yet given freely to offer us a bridge back home.

Life is much greater than what we know here on this Earth. Most of us do not possess the ability to grasp the extent of God’s true abiding love, yet in the dark, reeling from a dream so strong and real, I had a tiny glimpse of the enormity of God’s own heart.

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“Pan, who and what art thou?” he cried huskily.
“I’m youth, I’m joy,” Peter answered at a venture, “I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg.”

― J.M. Barrie

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(Black capped chickadee / Julie Cook / 2014)

Each day, joy and merriment meet at the feeders.
Skiddering and teetering
Hopping and flittering
Precariously maneuvering from atop a tiny high wire act without worry or care.

Oh that life could be so seemingly carefree. . .
Flying, darting and dashing about, entertaining one and all.
Yet it is to the readily available food they come.
Hurrying to gather succulent morsels one by one.

Fragile yet intricate they fascinate and marvel
Envious of their flight, humankind has been drawn to them since the beginning of time.
Yet it is to the cry of the human heart. . .
Oh but to be a bird, to take wing and fly away. . .

Heavenward I world soar, past stars and moon
Upward past sun and clouds, I would race.
For there, waiting with hand outstretched I would find you.
You, the Creator of all of life, waiting.
Waiting to cup me gently in your warm hands,
Longing to find joy in my final return flight home. . .

Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul’s
The little old bird woman comes
In her own special way to the people she calls,
“Come, buy my bags full of crumbs;
Come feed the little birds,
Show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do
The young ones are hungry
The nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag
Feed the birds,” that’s what she cries
While overhead, her birds fill the skies

All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares
Although you can’t see it,
You know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares

Though her words are simple and few
Listen, listen, she’s calling to you
“Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag”

Mary Poppins

What waits amongst the hope

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops — at all….

Emily Dickinson, c.1861

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(tufted titmouse sits amongst the branches of a tulip tree/ Julie Cook / 2014)

What waits amongst the hope of a season’s waning cheer?
What waits amongst the hope of yet another passing year?

What waits amongst the hope of a rainy December day?
What waits amongst the hope in a sky so dull and grey?

What waits amongst the hope hidden in a darkened room?
What waits amongst the hope of a single tiny bloom?

What waits amongst the hope for a lonely face so sad?
What waits amongst the hope for a weary world gone mad?

What waits amongst the hope of the joy of a coming Spring?
What waits amongst the hope of the story of the new born King?

What waits amongst the hope of humankind this year to be?
Our hope is soon forth coming for all the world to see.

For unto to us a child is born, for us a son now given.
He comes as Hope made manifest for all our sins forgiven.

The Holy Innocents

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:16-18 / Jeremiah 31:15

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Nicolas Poussin / Massacre of the Innocents / 1628

Feast day of the Holy Innocents / December 27th

To what extent will a man go in order to preserve his realm, his kingdom, his leadership, his position, his way of life?
To such an extreme as to order the murder of his two sons?
Or perhaps the death of every male child two years of age and under?
Could a grown man fear the birth of a baby so much that he will do the unthinkable?

Who can even begin to imagine the incomprehensible moments that the mothers of Bethlehem and beyond experienced that fateful day as the guards came with their swords. This thought mingles with similar disheartening moments that we have witnessed more recently with the taking of many innocent young lives across the globe.

We are reminded today, the feast day of the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, of the fear which ran deep in Herod’s veins over the realization that there was one who would come to be much greater then he.
We are reminded of the price paid for Salvation’s birth.
We are reminded that great men can and do fear innocence.
We are reminded that the weak will be made strong.
May we be mindful this day of the price paid for our salvation, our hope, our lives. . .as it began over 2000 years ago with the loss of many small young lives. . .

“Blessed are you, Bethlehem in the land of Judah! You suffered the inhumanity of King Herod in the murder of your babes and thereby have become worthy to offer to the Lord a pure host of infants. In full right do we celebrate the heavenly birthday of these children whom the world caused to be born unto an eternally blessed life rather than that from their mothers’ womb, for they attained the grace of everlasting life before the enjoyment of the present. The precious death of any martyr deserves high praise because of his heroic confession; the death of these children is precious in the sight of God because of the beatitude they gained so quickly. For already at the beginning of their lives they pass on. The end of the present life is for them the beginning of glory. These then, whom Herod’s cruelty tore as sucklings from their mothers’ bosom, are justly hailed as “infant martyr flowers”; they were the Church’s first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.

— St. Augustine

Undone

The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.
Oswald Chambers

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(another year, another tree tossed over the back deck / Julie Cook / 2014)

Undecorated
Unlighted
Untangled
Undone

Once again another tree is drug through the house, leaking a vast trailing carpet of dried needles.
Hoisted up and over the railing, only to fall unceremoniously with a sickening thud,
onto the hard cold ground below.
Off to decompose on the compost heap or off to the lake to create an underwater hiding place for Spring’s spawning fish.

For what’s now done cannot be undone–as time now moves forward, taking us all along with it.
We are slowly beginning the transition of the past to the future.
Packing away all that was, anticipating all that is to be.

Ancient mysteries have played out once again as we recall what has drawn us to this time and place.
For what was set in motion so long ago, with the birth of a single child, cannot be undone with the discarding of a tree, the packing away of ornaments, the traveling back to home and school, the ending of the festivities. . .the parties, the dinners, the services, the sales, the returns. . .all pieces of the ending of a season.

And no matter how much we work to change, pack, repack, stash away, move, transition from this to that. . .there is no act of man that can ever undo what was done that single night, so long ago in that tiny desert village, in that small cramped stable under the watchfulness of that single star.
For what God has wrought, no man can undo.

You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD. “I have chosen you as my servant so that you can know and believe in me and understand that I am the one [who did this]. No god was formed before me, and there will be none after me.
I alone am the LORD, and there is no savior except me.
I have revealed it to you, I have saved you, and I have announced it to you. There was no foreign god among you. You are my witnesses that I am God,” declares the LORD.
“From the first day I was the one who did this. No one can rescue people from my power. When I do something, who can undo it?”

Isaiah 43:10-13

The Aftermath

“Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”
A great Shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

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(the remnants–boxes, torn paper, ribbons and trash / Julie Cook / 2014)

Do you hear that?
It’s the loud collective release of breath from what has been the building up to and of a wealth of emotions. . .
Excitement
Anticipation
Joy
Frustration
Disappointment
Impatience
Elation
Melancholy
Exhaustion
Expectancy

As each emotion is somewhat dependent upon one’s age and stage of life, one may have more invested in the frenzies verses the weariness of this thing and time we call Christmas, coupled with what others call Hanukah.

It’s been a month long whirlwind of highs and lows and everything in between.
Visits to Santa
Elves on shelves
The lighting of candles, both Menorahs and Advent wreathes
Cooking
Cleaning
Shopping
Wrapping
Partying
Eating
Visiting
Traveling

And today, Boxing Day in both the UK and Canada, a day after, a day of leftovers and has beens, we enter the time known as the “aftermath”

It is a time when we find ourselves feeling. . .
blue,
sad,
letdown,
weary,
tired,
depressed,
thankful,
wistful,
and longing for something we can’t quite put our fingers on.

It is now time to decompress from the overload of being wound tight as a top for a solid month.
The window of merriment and break-neck speed living, which started in late November with Thanksgiving and will culminate, realistically, on January 2nd. When life as we know it, resumes and gets back under way.
Back to work
Back to home
Back to school
Back to the daily grind of life.

The giving and receiving is coming to a halt.
The hysteria of shopping lingers with the “after” sales.
The time of transition is once again at hand.

It’ll take some time.
Time to. . .
repack
unpack
move to storage
return to the stores
reclean the mess
reset the schedule
follow the new resolutions
settling back in to the routine. . .
finding a groove once again

Take time to be. . .
good to yourself,
good to others,
Continue to keep a spirit of. . .
gratitude,
anticipation,
expectancy,
peace,
joy,
giving,
kindness,
thoughtfulness. . .

Take a deep breath and move forward.
Slowly at first, then a quicker step will most certainly be soon to follow.
And just soon enough, before you even know it, all that now seems like a letdown, leftover, and somewhat sad will be coming untrue. . .as your heart will be full, happy, and content, as you continue as you have, to focus on others and of their wellbeing rather than your own. . .
Because isn’t that what this time is really all about—the joy of the giving of ourselves to others, just as the wee babe came into this world to give himself to us. . .

And so this is Christmas

It is not the gift, but the thought that counts.
Henry Van Dyke

It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well,
if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!
And so, as Tiny Tim observed, “God Bless Us, Every One!

Charles Dickens

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(reproduction of a fresco piece of Hoy Family Nativity originally created by Fra Angelico / The original fresco is located on a wall within a former monk’s cell at the Convent of San Marco in Florence, Italy / Julie Cook / 2014)

And so this is Christmas, and what have you done. . .

As I come before a crude makeshift cradle this early new Christmas morn,
to kneel, not before an altar, but rather before a king. . .
To both ooo and ahhh over a new born babe nestled in the straw as the essence of animals and cow dung mingle with the warm heady fragrance of both Frankincense and Myrrh, my mind and heart each race pondering over what it is that I have brought this special day, to this very special birth-day, as my special gift.

What gifts have I brought to this new mother and father for the birth of their first born son?
What gifts have I brought to the babe so tender and mild?
What gifts have I brought to a king so full of mercy and grace?

And as I take my place on this yearly pilgrimage, kneeling once again before this cradle so dear, I wonder what it is that have I done throughout the course of yet another year which I could now present, of that which is worthy to lay before this babe who would be king?
Have I been kind?
Have I worked for peace?
Have I fed the poor?
Have I clothed those without?
Have I taken in the homeless?
Have I opened my heart?
Have I turned the other cheek?
Have I loved rather than hated?
Have I rejoiced rather than complain?
Have I honored God?
Have I respected others?
Have I offered shelter?
Have I given second chances?
Have I offered love to all I meet?

As now the same question remains for each of us. . .and so this is Christmas,
and what have you done. . .

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong

And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas

And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

War is over over
If you want it
War is over
Now…

John Lennon
1971