tears

“The heart knoweth its own sorrow and there are times when, like David, it is comforting to think that our tears are put in a bottle and not one of them forgotten by the one who leads us in paths of sorrow.”
― Hannah Hurnard

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(detail of an image of Christ—holy napkin or veil of Veronica, from a side altar reliquary /The Basilica St. Michael / Mondsee, Austria / Julie Cook / 2015)

Tears are falling like the rain
Tears of struggle and tears of pain

Filled with loneliness and despair
A cry for help now found in prayer

“Hear me please” is all that’s heard
As life and death’s fine lines are blurred

A knowing comfort, none more so true,
That I have shed my tears for you. . .

And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

Monday in a meadow

Nevertheless there are certain peaks, canons, and clear meadow spaces which are above all compassing of words, and have a certain fame as of the nobly great to whom we give no familiar names.
Mary Hunter Austin

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(dragon fly / Troup Co, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2015)


“Brown wings among the browner grass
And breast all brightening yellow —
Pipes up from meadows as we pass
The lark’s call, clear and mellow;
Now wakes the burnished dragonfly
Beside the glinting river,
That shakes with silent laughter where
The iris banners quiver;
Now on the budding poplar boughs
The tuneful blackbirds perch:
For the catkin’s on the willow
And the tassel on the birch.”

Excerpt form Spring in the Meadow
by Mary Hunter Austin

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(dragon fly / Troup Co, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(dragon fly / Troup Co, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2015)

Past and Future

“. . .It’s got me hoping for the future
And worrying about the past
‘Cause I’ve seen some hot hot blazes
Come down to smoke and ash. . .”

a few lines from Joni Mitchell – Help Me

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Giovanni Bellini / Le Christ Bénissant 1465-1470 / The Louvre / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

Has the past left you worrying about the future?
Will the future find you wistful for the past?
Does the present find you hopeful about much of anything?

Have you turned on the news, read the paper, seen the stories. . .

Terror attacks on the beach
Heads chopped off like weeds.
Migrants are flooding across the seas
Legislation turns topsy turvy
Killings where we worship
Good guys set bad guys free
Sharks are hungry in the surf
Flags flap in the wind

That which is seen now as bad must be stricken from sight, from history, from acknowledgment—
Seek and destroy quickly lest anyone notice.
Hysteria is crying foul as the masses must now acquiesce.
Simply wipe it clean with the sweep of a pen and that’ll make it all better.
Don’t pause to consider the bigger picture.
Just erase it from view and that’ll be the end of it.
Rewrite what was and that’ll keep them happy, quiet, confused.
Out of sight, out of mind.

Is straddling that fence getting uncomfortable?
Is the grey any more clear?
Upside down for one is now right side up for many.
Thought you knew which way to go. . .

When rainbows once came after the storm
Hope grew out of the past
History directed the future
and everything made more sense. . .

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

1 Peter 4: 12-19

confession of silence

“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”
― Elbert Hubbard

“To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. . .”

Opening line from poem Protest by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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(Fra Angelico, Christ Crowned with Thorns, 1440 / Livorno, Santa Maria del Soccorso)

Frustratingly this week, my time has not been my own as I have been back and forth to Dads–Dad is still sick with what I’ve thought to be little improvement but the doctor today tells us otherwise. He seems to think Dad is showing slow gains.
Really??
Well, slow it certainly seems to be—and I suppose slow is better than stagnate.

Dad’s question to the doctor “can I eat fried chicken and chocolate?” Hopefully he didn’t intend to have that as a combo meal. . .
My hope is that he might have something a little more solid, sans fried chicken. . .of which will still be quite sometime as we’ve had to switch up meds hoping for greater improvement. . .

All of this has left me with little to no time to put together a thoughtful, or thought provoking, post as of late. And that is in part why I have yielded the past few days to the wisdom of my friend, Pastor Bonhoeffer.
Of which I must do again today as the past couple of entries from my devotional book have spoken deeply to my heart.
His words race across the chasm of time and place.
It is as if I am reading an observation from our own sad world. . .
May we, the body of the Church, no longer remain silent. . .

The Sin of Silence
The church confesses that it has witnessed the arbitrary use of brutal force, the suffering in body and soul of countless innocent people, that it has witnessed oppression, hatred, and murder without raising its voice for the victims and without finding ways of rushing to help them. It has become guilty of the lives of the weakest and most defenseless brother and sisters of Jesus Christ. . . .
The church confesses that it has looked on silently as the poor were exploited and robbed, while the strong were enriched and corrupted. The church confesses its guilt toward the countless pople whose lives have been destroyed by slander, denunciation, and defamation. It has not condemned the slanders for their wrongs and has thereby left the slandered to their fate. The church confesses that it has coveted security, tranquility, peace, property, and honor to which it had no claim, and therefore has not bridled human covetousness, but promoted it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Ethics 139-140

(the above image of a painting by il Beato [the blessed one] Angelico known as Fra [brother] Angelico of the Christ Crowned With Thorns is one of the most moving Renaissance images of Christ that I have ever seen. I actually saw the image at the Convent of San Marco in Florence, Italy on a card in the gift shop. San Marco is the convent in which Fra Angelico lived as a monk. Each of the monk’s cells are painted with various images depicting the life of Christ, as painted by Fra Angelico, intended for each monk’s contemplation—a beautiful contemplative respite in the tourist ridden Florence)

Shortcomings

“When judging other people’s shortcomings, remember yours”
Leo Tolstoy

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(crucifix hanging beside the shrine to St Maximilian Kolbe, The Polish Museum, Rapperswill, Switzerland / Julie Cook / 2012)

I am always amazed when reading the writings of Christian theologians and clergy who were living in the midst of Hitler’s rise to power, as well as the chronicles of the holy living throughout the perilous struggles during the height of the war, all these many years later.

Living, preaching, teaching, writing, ministering to the faithful, as well as the faithless, during incessant bombings, times of disease, brutality, starvation. . .during times of hiding, as well as internment, while even facing certain death.

The perspective of their faith during such dire times is still so very relevant to our own time almost 80 years later.

That they could maintain a holy presence of mind while witnessing unspeakable atrocities.
That they could hold desperately to a faith during the days of ungodliness and devastating betrayal.
That they never wavered or buckled when the world had seemed to abandon all sense of hope and sanity.
That clergy, nuns and priests such as Father Maximilian Kolbe, who were murdered in the death camps, could continue to minister to their fellow prisoners while enduring horrific tortures–still able to sing songs of praise even when their mouthes were so utterly dry from starvation that not a sound could be heard.
Yet sing they did in their hearts.

I am always amazed reading the reflections written during such a different time and in such a different world which are eerily so timely still today.
And perhaps that is what makes me sad.
The continued relevance and timeliness.

Reading the words, not knowing that they belonged to a different era, the casual observer would no doubt be surprised that they were not written today.
Such are the reflections of Dietrich Bonhoeffer regarding the Christian Church prior to and during the war.

The following daily reading is taken from A Year With Dietrich Bonhoeffer and could easily be spoken today.
Pope Francis, during a recent visit to Turin, Italy in order to view the Shroud of Turin, gave a talk regarding the Church’s failings during the war noting that she struggles with her shortcomings of the faithful today. . .

The Sins of the Church
The church confesses that it has not professed openly and clearly enough its message of the one God, revealed for all times in Jesus Christ and tolerating no other gods besides. The church confesses its timidity, its deviations, its dangerous concessions. It has often disavowed its duties as sentinel and comforter. Through this it has often withheld the compassion that it owes to the despised and redacted. The church was mute when it should have cried out, because the blood of the innocent cried out to heaven. The church did not find the right word in the right way at the right time. It did not resist to the death the falling away from faith and is guilty of the godlessness of the masses. The church confesses that it has misused the name of Christ by being ashamed of it before the world and by not resisting strongly enough the muses of that name for evil ends. The church has looked on while injustice and violence have been done, under the cover of the name of Christ. It has even allowed the most holy name to be openly derided withou contradiction and has thus encourage that derision. The church recognizes that God will not leave unpunished those who so muse God’s name as it does.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Ethics 138-139

Timely radicalism

“Every Christian should be both conservative and radical; conservative in preserving the faith and radical in applying it.”
― John R.W. Stott

“The ‘average sensual man’ who is sometimes unfaithful to his wife, sometimes tipsy, always a little selfish, now and then (within the law) a trifle sharp in his deals, is certainly, by ordinary standards, a ‘lower’ type than the man whose soul is filled with some great Cause, to which he will subordinate his appetites, his fortune, and even his safety. But it is out of the second man that something really fiendish can be made; an Inquisitor, a Member of the Committee of Public Safety. It is great men, potential saints, not little men, who become merciless fanatics. Those who are readiest to die for a cause may easily become those who are readiest to kill for it.”
― C.S. Lewis

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(the crucified Christ/ Fra Angelico / The Convent of San Marco, Florence, Itlay / Julie Cook / 2007)

When I was a sophomore in college I was required to take an upper level Lit class.
Now I’ll admit that I was never the best of students.
School was never terribly easy for me.
I was a slow reader, but yet I greatly enjoyed reading—especially if it was something I found to be relevant—particularly to my Christian spiritual development.

This particular Lit class was taught by a professor who was in his very early 30’s, not much older than his students. A free spirit who would come to class barefoot and sit indian style atop a desk as he lead conversation in whatever it is was we were currently reading.

He let it be known that he was a disenfranchised former Catholic turned atheist.

We read the works of men such as Kafka and Dostoyevsky.
Some of the material was bizarre and boring, others were not so bad.
He wasn’t one much for giving grades but up to the end of the course I was under the impression that I had made A’s, B’s and even a C on my written “critiques” of our readings.
That is until our last book, the book that the final exam would be based on. . .
The Grand Inquisitor by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I thought this would be a book right up my alley as I found it intriguing.

I think my mistake was to take issue when this barefoot professor began to expose the questions and role of the Inquisitor against the silent Christ who was on trial, again so it seemed, for his life.
I defended Jesus to the Inquisitor who just so happened to be my professor. We went back and forth.
I later wrote with the same thread of thought when taking the final exam.

This had been the spring quarter so that meant we were all to depart for home at the end of the term.
These were the pre-email, internet, computer days so I would never know what I made on my final as we were all long gone and would merely wait for our grades to be delivered home during the summer via Post.

A couple of weeks went past when my grades finally arrived.
Opening the card and perusing the posted grades, I was shocked when I saw that I had failed the Lit class.
I was not only shocked, I was furious.
This would cause havoc to my GPA.
I had not failed a single paper.
I was never given any indication that I was in any sort of “academic” trouble. . .
How in the world could I have failed the course?
I did all of my assignments.
What grades I did receive were all very satisfactory.
I participated in all class discussions. . .
And that’s when it hit me.

I immediately called the University.
I was told the professor had resigned, moved on to the University of Arizona, taking all of his papers and records with him.
In other words, I had been screwed and there wasn’t a single thing I could do about it—
I couldn’t protest the grade as there was no professor nor “evidence” of paperwork in which to refer.
I get mad to this day just thinking about it all these near 40 years later.

I knew good and well, as I know to this day, that I failed that class because of my outspokenness of my faith and of my thoughts of Dostoyevsky’s Inquisitor verses Christ.

So when I read the Bonhoeffer reflection this morning. . .of his thoughts on radicalism (who else could so intimately understand the evils of radicalism than Bonhoeffer!!), and of his mention of Ivan Karamazov, I thought of a person who had, for whatever reason, grown at odds with God, who had left his faith for the emptiness of nothingness, taking his form of radicalism to the classroom, punishing anyone who stood on the opposite side of his internal angst.

Sadly today we see this same sort of issue of exploding radicalism across the country growing by leaps and bounds as there seems to be a growing intolerance against Christianity on any stage. . .be it on a college campus, in the news, laced throughout our entertainment industry and even in our political arena. We see it not as expected on the shores of foreign lands of the non-believers but we now see it growing on our own shores within our own culture

And yet our friend Bonhoeffer is actually writing into today’s lesson of his concern of that same sinister infiltration of radicalism seeping into the faithful—working to infest the faithful with a smug and pious self-righteous indignation. A radicalism which is witness to Christians using Christ more as a weapon and defense of their own agendas rather than embracing the pure message of selfless Love and of the Salvation found in the cross— and where that now in turn places the believer in the world. . .so now we see radicalism facing us, the Christian, on both our right and on our left. . .each from within and without. . .

The Rise of Radicalism
Radicalism always arises from a conscious or unconscious hatred of what exists. Christinan radicalism, whether it would flee the world or improve it, comes from the hatred of creation. The radical cannot forgive God for having created what is. It is Ivan Karamazov, the one totally at odds with the created world, who creates the figure of a radical Jesus in the legend of the Grand Inquisitor. When evil becomes powerful in the world, it simultaneously injects the Christian with the poison of radicalism. Reconciliation with the world as it is, which is given to the Christian by Christ, is then called betrayal and denial of Christ. In its place come bitterness, suspicion, and contempt for human beings and the world. Love that believes all things, bears all things, and hopes all things, love that loves the world in its dry wickedness with the love of God (John 3:16), becomes—by limiting love to the closed circle of the pious—a pharisaical refusal of love for the wicked. The open churn of Jesus Christ, which serves the world to the end, becomes kind of supposed ur-Christian ideal church–community that in turn mistakenly infuse the realization of a Christian idea with the reality the living Jesus Christ. Thus a world that has become evil succeeds in making Christian evil also.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Ethics 155-156

A bad day for the birds

Do you ne’er think what wondrous beings these?
Do you ne’er think who made them, and who taught
The dialect they speak, where melodies
Alone are the interpreters of thought?
Whose household words are songs in many keys,
Sweeter than instrument of man e’er caught!

HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW

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(5 tiny bluebird eggs / Julie Cook / 2015)

If you’ve followed much of cookiecrumbs for any length of time, then you know I love my birds.
Not the Atlanta Falcons or Hawks mind you nor some sort of pet parakeet but rather those beautifully wild birds which frequent my yard.
I just love all the various wild birds that either call my yard their permanent home or those more transient species who just happen by on a short lay over as they travel onward to wherever it is they go. . .

I enjoy the commotion on the feeders, especially after a recent replenishing.
I relish those fleeting occasional sightings of some rare bird making an impromptu pitstop.

From hummingbird to hawk, I love my birds.

Yet sadly there have been three incidents as of late which have left me rather troubled and to be honest, quite sad.

I realize that Nature is Nature–wild and free so to speak.
There’s that whole food chain thing going on. . .
The survival of the fittest. . .
That whole eat or be eaten mentality. . .
All out taking place in that yard of mine.
Be it raccoon, copperhead, rat snake, possum, mole, armadillo, coyote, bobwhite, bobcat, buzzard, cardinal, robin, turtle, lizard, chipmunk. . .living harmoniously is certainly a very fine line.

First my bluebirds.
We’ve had a family of bluebirds here in our yard for as long as we’ve lived in this house–a good 16 years. Offsprings return each year and continue raising generation after generation.
I have several boxes up for their choice of nesting.
Last year, on Mother’s day of all days, you may remember the whole bird box incident with my husband and how Mrs Bluebird did not have a happy mother’s day. I was shocked they decided to actually come back, giving us a second chance, but we won’t relive that little trauma drama right now. . .

I had watched with keen interest this Spring as mom and dad bluebird were first busy building a nest in the box of choice and then secondly how they worked in tandem to feed the hatchlings.

Yet oddly one strange day, all was silent. There was no activity of the usual flying back and forth. No little rising crescendo chorus greeting the latest tasty morsel of worm or bug delivered for meal time—a never ending mealtime.

I watched the box for a couple of days before taking my chance. . .I eased up to the box, twisting the latch to check inside.
I found nothing.
It was still too soon for the babies to have “flown” the proverbial coop—I fretted that a raccoon or snake or feral cat had had it’s way one dark and sinister night with my wee blue family. . .

Fast forward a couple of weeks when, once again, I notice a bevy of activity. Mom sitting with her tiny head poking out of the hole as if she was on patrol as Dad made the deliveries of tasty takeout.
This went on for about two weeks, when once again, out of the blue, nothing.
No noise,
No commotion,
No movement,
No mom.
No dad.

So once again after watching the box intently for several days, I slowly inched my way to the tree, lifting the latch. . .this time, resting gently in place were 5 beautifully blue eggs. Alone.
Mom and Dad had left the box. . .
But way?

The other seemingly tragic event came around the same time as the first bluebird batch disappearance.
There was a mockingbird who had built a nest in close proximity to the bluebirds box, with its nest perched up in a Tea Olive tree.
Mother and dad mockingbird were fiercely protective and equally as busy as Mr and Mrs Bluebird.
Mom had laid several beautiful eggs that hatched into several tiny little balls of fluffy down.

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(mockingbird eggs / Julie Cook /2015)

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(the tiny mockingbird fledglings / Julie Cook / 2015)

Yet oddly, their nest grew quiet at the same time as the bluebirds. . .which certainly raised my suspicions as to what was taking place in the cloak of darkness.

Lastly the final insult to injury for my beloved birds. . .

A couple of weeks ago I had shared a post featuring our new redheaded woodpecker family.
The first couple of these gorgeous birds to call our yard home. They were truly magnificent birds to watch purely because of their striking colors. A brilliant red head offset by the white and black body feathers.
I was so proud that this pair of beautiful birds had opted to call my yard home.

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Their range was rather wide as I would often see them flying off to the woods across the street at the back of the neighbor’s pasture. They began to enjoy sitting on our black fence with runs the length of our property along the road. I imagined the pickings for bugs must have been ideal along the fence.

Last week, at the end of one long hot day finally returning home from Dad’s, I turned to pull into the driveway when I noticed what appeared to be a dead bird lying on its back in the middle of the driveway. Immediately I could hear my own voice echoing in the car “NO, NO, NO. . .”
Stopping the car to investigate further, my initial assumption was sadly was confirmed—-it was one of the woodpeckers.

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(my beautiful redheaded woodpecker is no more / Julie Cook / 2015)

From my observation I noted some blood around the beak and sadly surmised that the bird perhaps had flown out and up at the same time a car had came barreling down the road.

I brought the bird down to the house and took it out in the back to bury it.

I always feel privileged when I am afforded a glimpse into the lives of the animals, birds, reptiles, fish that I share my little piece of the planet with. . .I’ve always felt as if God has given me a tiny precious gift each encounter, each observation. . .be it here in my own backyard or along the shores of the ocean or in the wilds of Alaska. . .Those created creatures both majestic and beautiful, wild and free. . .creatures I am tasked with, as a steward of the planet and created creature myself who God entrusted with responsibility, to care for, honor and respect. . .

I am thankful for their presence in my world as they remind me of God’s grace as well as joy—as He must have taken great pleasure in their creation. . .

Here’s to my birds—may better days grace your horizons. . .