Humble

“As long as you are proud you cannot know God.
A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course,
as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


(Normandy, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

“The true reason for which God bestows so many graces upon the humble is this,
that the humble are faithful to these graces and make good use of them.
They receive them from God and use them in a manner pleasing to God,
giving all the glory to Him,
without reserving any for themselves.
It is certainly true that he who is humble is also faithful to God,
because the humble man is also just in giving to all their due,
and above all, in rendering to God the things that are God’s;
that is, in giving Him the glory for all the good that he is,
all the good that he has and for all the good that he does;

As the Venerable Bede says:
‘Whatever good we see in ourselves,
let us ascribe it to God and not to ourselves.’

To give thanks to God for all the blessings we have received and
are continually receiving is an excellent means of exercising humility,
because by thanksgiving we learn to acknowledge the Supreme Giver of every good.
And for this reason it is necessary for us always to be humble before God.
St. Paul exhorts us to render thanks for all things and at all times:
‘In all things give thanks.’ (1 Thess. 5:18).
‘Giving thanks always for all things.’ (Eph. 5:20).
But that our thanksgiving may be an act of humility it must not only come from the
lips but from the heart,
with a firm conviction that all good comes to us through the infinite mercy of God.”

Rev. Cajetan da Bergamo,
p. 87-8
An Excerpt From
Humility Of Heart

A sickly mayor, lies, truth and the notion of an a-political life

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
Mark Twain


(the mayor thankfully on the mend / Julie Cook / 2018)

Having been gone for nearly three weeks, I walked into the seemingly empty house
putting down my bags while grabbing a different smaller bag and immediately headed to
Atlanta in order to see the Mayor.

Jet lag??!!
What jet lag???

So what was to be a few days stay to help out during schedule changes and
overlapping work hours which came before the daycare lady opened her doors,
actually turned out to be a week
of nursing.

When I got to Atlanta, I was met at the door by a set of worried parents noting a sudden
spate of tiny little red spots covering two tiny little legs and arms coupled
with a puny little girl.

The following day a slight fever developed so an after-hours visit to Urgent Care was
in quick order.

A lingering sinus infection mixed with severe teething woes made for one miserable little
girl and several troubled adults.
She refused to take a bottle and shunned her applesauce.
Sleep was something that alluded us all as laying down exacerbated the difficulty in
breathing and the throbbing little gums.
When the Mayor is awake, all of her aides are awake.

Gone was the happy perky little girl which was replaced with a very fussy miserable baby
who only wanted to held and rocked.


(an ailing little Mayor / Julie Cook / 2018)

Yet blessedly today, finally, I could tell the antibiotics were kicking in as breathing
was no longer regulated through a tiny mouth agape while the angry tugging at ears and hair
had happily abated.
A smile sporting two tiny little teeth replaced the upturned frown and protruding bottom lip.

As she and I sat outside this afternoon, actually enjoying the sun and a crystal blue sky
following yesterday’s ominous stormy weather thanks to the passing of a monster named Michael,
I simply marveled over what I held in my lap while basking in the moment of engulfing peace.

No Right
No Left
No hate
No news
No crime
No fear
No lawlessness
No bashing
No distrust
No disrespect…

It was the only thing that really mattered…just she and me…
a rare moment of simple care and simple peace.

There was nothing outside of the moment…because right then and there, life was that moment.

No cries from Democrats about kicking hard and low at the Republicans.

No issues over preferring to be moralistic while eschewing the current cultural push
for all-inclusiveness total acceptance of whatever floats one’s boat.

No ridicule over desiring to live a Christian life.
No persecution for believing in the traditional family.
No news media pushing personal liberal agendas…

And so it dawned on me…
since this culture of ours is now all about lifestyles that are
basically asexual—meaning our society wants so badly to be gender neutral,
not male, not female, but simply whatever one chooses at the moment…
Why then not opt for what is a-political…meaning…
to hell with politics and politicians??
Who needs them?

Because I for one have grown weary of the hoopla and the hype that screams for our
attention each time we turn on a television, open a paper, click on a computer…

The latest idiocy over the Kavanaugh hearing was such a travesty of humanity…
of what it means to be a decent human being to another human being,
that I really wish I could just cut all of the politics and politicians
out of our lives.

Which reminded me of our recent trip to Rome.

We had the opportunity to visit a relatively infamous oddity—
the hauntingly odd Bocca della Verità—otherwise known as
The Mouth of Fate.


(Bocca della Verità / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

According to those in the know,
Long before the modern lie detector and its harmlessly jittering graphs and
wires were invented,
the superstitious and untruthful faced a much more severe fate between the jaws
of the Bocca della Verità, or Mouth of Fate, an ancient carving which is said to bite
the hands off of liars.
While no one is exactly sure when or why the frieze was created,
there are a number of theories.
Dating back to around the 1st century CE, the Mouth of Truth is a tall stone disc carved
into a humanoid face with hollow holes for eyes and its gaping mouth.
The original purpose of the large medallion has been theorized as everything from a
ceremonial well cover, to a piece of fountain decoration, to a manhole cover.
The face itself has been said to represent a pagan god although exactly
which one is up for debate with scholars guessing at everyone from forest god Faunus,
to sea god Oceanus, to a local river god.

While the origin is up for debate the one unifying legend surrounding the stone carving is
that if one were to stick their hand inside the disc’s mouth and tell a lie,
the rocky maw would bite the offending hand off.
This belief seems to have originated during the Middle Ages when the disc was supposedly
used during trials having the accused put their hand in the slot and if found to be untruthful
a hidden axeman would lop off the appendage.
While this use seems to be apocryphal, the superstition persists to this day.

The Mouth of Truth, which now rests outside the doors of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church,
has been used as a whimsical lie detector in a number of movies and video games,
most famously in the 1953 romance, Roman Holiday, in which the carving was a major plot device.

Excerpt from Atlas Obscura

So with this notion of a Mouth of Truth in the works, how many then of our current
mob mentality, rabidly progressive politicians, bounty hunting news media
and hateful cultural demigods would be willing to place a hand into the Mouth of Fate?
How many would emerge with hands intact?

How many of the lies that are thrown at us on a daily basis would then not simply be
cut out of our lives?

My life has been so grossly full as of late, in so many areas of this tiny world of ours,
that I have fallen woefully behind in my reading of the good Bishop Gavin Ashenden
and of our friend the Wee Flea, the Scottish Pastor David Roberston.

But for all of my negligence, these brave Christian men are continuing to the fight
the good fight.
So much so that the good Bishop was actually recently banned from Twitter for
hate speech…hate speech because the good Bishop noted that the seemingly endless revelation
of the pedophilia plague unraveling within the Catholic Chruch actually has its roots
stemming from that of homosexuality…an observation that the Gay community took to task
and didn’t much find to their liking–and therefore crying foul…
while Twitter acquiesced.

While we must remember that before he was an ordained Anglican priest,
our friend earned degrees in, practiced and taught both law and psychology.

Archbishop Cranmer on Twitter censoring Gavin Ashenden for describing the facts…

And yet it was what I read today from Bishop Ashenden’s take on the Kavanaugh confirmation
that I wish to also share.
Wisdom from across the pond concerning our latest American dirty laundry.

The presumption of innocence saves both bodies and souls in this civil war with ‘Identity Politics’.

So I must confess that I have gravely missed those voices of reason and Spiritual groundedness
throughout my recent travels and nursing duties while the madness has simply been allowed
to run amuck.

May we pray for those who continue to sound the bells of Truth, fighting the good fight
during these such dark days of falsehoods and lies…

And here is to a happy and healthy Mayor!!!!

Short and sweet

When we sin, we think we are geniuses;
when we confess, we know we are idiots.

Adreinne Von Speyr
from Lumina and New Lumina


(the Mayor attempts to drive herself donning her latest French driving barret /
Julie Cook / 2018)

As I’ve eluded these last past couple of days, I have a great deal I want to share…

For there has been so much gleaned during the past 18 days…
so many observations, so many revelations… but…as life would have it…
my desire for extensive sharing will have to wait just a bit longer.

I’ve been called into active duty…

The Mayor is requiring that her chief aide come to the Atlanta office for a few days
as her mom and dad’s work schedules this week will override the
daycare’s morning hours.

So the chief aide is having to pinch hit.

With that said, the offerings over the bulk of this coming week may be shorter
and sweeter rather than meatier and savory.

Therefore the offerings of thought and observations will have to suffice with a few thoughtful nuggets…little tasty morsels offered in order to tie us over until
time permits for further and more filling expansions…

“Your work—whether it is a chore around the house, a homework assignment,
a sports practice, or a job with an office and a paycheck—isn’t just a means to an economic end.
Nor is it something you need to ‘get over with’ in time for the weekend.
It is an essential part of your sanctification, a share in the divine brotherhood of Christ,
and a means of discovering your true self.
So the next time you are inclined to grumble about how much work you have to do,
try to remember that even this is an honor because it has been redeemed by Jesus.
If it was good enough for Him, it should be good enough for you.”

Fr. Augustine Wetta, OSB
from Humility Rules

confessionals

“The punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder.”
St. Augustine of Hippo


(an Italian confessional in St Peter’s / The Vatican, Rome / Julie Cook / 2018)

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another,
that you may be healed.
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

James 5:16

Let me back up a tad…

Back at the end of June, my husband retired.

He had spent 50 years running a small family business.

It was not how he had wanted to spend his life.
It was not his dream.
But it was his lot in the world of his sense of duty.

So when he made the decision to throw in the towel after 50 long grueling years,
I knew I wanted to do something special.
Something memorable to mark such a monumental occasion.

But what would be special?

A trip perhaps?

And perhaps not just any trip.
Perhaps a bucket list sort of trip.

For my husband, however, his idea of leaving this country has simply been crossing over the
border into Canada.
Not that anything is wrong with wandering into Canada…
but Canada’s border wasn’t in the bucket.

The only time my husband had truly left the country, as in the continent,
was in the mid-1970’s.

He was in his sophomore year of college, playing college football, with his eye set on
dentistry or even coaching…
but at the behest of his father, or more like the demand of an abusive alcoholic father,
he stoically left where he was happiest and went to the Joseph Bulova School
in Queen’s New York where he eventually earned a degree in Horology.
That being the study of watches and watchmaking.
And with that followed studies with the GIA institute to become a gemologist and
diamond graduate.

Never his plan but rather what his father demanded what he was to do with his life as
he felt obliged to do so.

Following two years of surviving ad enduring life in New York,
this small town country boy was then sent to America Somoa where he managed the Bulova Watch Plant
for a year’s time.

It was following this year in absentia, a year of living on a 5-mile wide and long island that he
vowed, that if he ever made it home, he’d never leave the country again.

And that vow stuck…for 50 long years.
With, of course, Canada being excluded.

So now let us fast forward to a man 69 years of age and finally retiring…
I told him that if he would like…if he was willing…
I would make the bucket list trip happen.

And so he actually delightfully agreed.

The bucket list trip had always been to Normandy, France.

Or rather, it was to the beaches and towns of the D-Day invasion.
The places where regular men were to be unknowingly transformed into heroes…
heroes because these average young men willingly gave up their lives for all of
Western Civilization’s precious gift of democracy and freedom—
a gift so woefully tested by our current society.

I will soon write about this personal pilgrimage of sorts within the coming days…
but before I do so, I want to address my concern over a current global obsession.

An obsession that only those living under rocks must be missing.

If you’ve ever found yourself traveling outside of the US and after a long
day or either business or touring, wanting to simply fall onto a bed while flipping on
a television hoping to catch a familiar sound of someone speaking your own language,
chances are your choice has been limited to one of two channels…
CNN International or the BBC International.

Both of which have a heavy dose of progressive liberalism in their slant
on global happenings.

Such was our lot during this recent Supreme Court nomination fiasco.

We were subjected to the willy-nilly, the sky is falling Henny Penny sense of
hysteria coming from the news anchors of CNN International.
I actually caught each and every nuanced slur and sensationalistic little dig.

So I will giddily confess…I was greatly happy to be out of the country during all of the
obsession over the Kavanaugh hearings…
or more aptly put…the grilling, the scrutinizing and the personal persecution
of a seemingly decent man, husband, father and professional.

I will not belabor this latest idiocy of ours as I am sick of it all.
Sick of the latest low we, as a Nation, have sunk to.

That we have actually allowed ourselves to conduct governmental dealings as a sleazy
tabloid trash reality show would do…of which I find disgusting…
disgusted over our irreprehensible assinine behavior…is beyond my soul.

Scintillating and titillating are two words I would never have ever considered using when thinking
about, let alone describing, a hearing process working towards the nomination of a Supreme
Court Justice…
Rather we should consider words steeped deeply in the tedious law-minded legal policies
and ponderings of a judicial system.

If we are now wanting to use the haphazard adolescent behavior from our teenaged years
as benchmark measures for our adult appointments and advancements then I fear every last
human being will be in store for a rude awakening if not a ton of troubles.
For what young person among us hasn’t done something dumb, shameful, wrong, illegal
and or simply arrogantly stupid?

For is that now how we, in part, learn?
Learning from youthful idiotic mistakes and poor choices as we make our way
to adulthood?

We just pray, as do the adults in our lives, that such mistakes and poor youthful judgment calls
are not overly detrimental, utterly devastating or sadistically dubious…
and yet sadly, in many cases, they are…

Consider the adolescent bravado of living fast, furious and large while mixing life and death consequences…
James Dean comes to mind.

And no, we are not talking about pathological psychosis that gives way to bizarre heinous actions.
Here we are talking about poor judgemental actions by, more often than not,
self-centered egotistical youth not the actions of psychopaths.

And so when recently visiting St Peter’s in Rome while passing by a confessional booth…
I was struck immediately by our human sinful nature.
Something that hangs over us like a heavy dusty suffocating curtain.

I grew up in a liturgical church…a church with the prayers of confession and confessions
to a priest…all being the norm.
I for one often found myself on that confessing end, seeking both prayerful wisdom and direction
from those more knowledgeable and wizened than myself as I made my way through the muddy waters of
growing up balancing on the wire between my newly professed faith while finding my way as a willful
teenager.

Absolution.

Absolution which we graciously offer to those who seek forgiveness…
the ultimate absolution granted to each of us from the one who hung on a cross.

“Go and sin no more” said the Jewish rabbi to the adulteress woman.

The confessional is a sacred form of sharing from the penitent to the priest.
It is a protected sharing…protected even in a court of law.
For it is a sharing between penitent, priest and God.
And yet, I somehow sense that our rabid politicians and progressive liberal culture,
coupled with the hyper-rabid news media, would find the confessional null and void
for the sinners among us…as they seem to find themselves above reproach…

Yet who among us is worthy of casting that stone?

My concern is not with what took place 35 years ago by a supposed 16-year-old kid
and those who can and cannot recall the who, what and wheres of cloudy recollections…
but rather with the dubious ploys used by those who simply hate a president and everything
attached to his tenure.

Such that they seek a saint amongst the sinners…

May God have mercy on us all…

If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

an adventure is afoot

“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance;
to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him,
the greatest human achievement.”

St. Augustine of Hippo


(a good book, a camera and a backpack…hummmm)

Remember me telling you that my husband retired as of July 1 after 50 years of running
his own business?

Well, my quandary was–what does a wife do to commemorate such a milestone??
…or rather…
what does a wife do to commemorate the removal of a millstone from around one’s neck??

I’ve been working behind the scenes now for a year.
Plotting.
Planning.
Calculating.
Arranging.

There was always one thing on the proverbial bucket list that he has always said he’d
like to really see in person.
A place he’s mentioned many times.
But not being one to want to leave the confines of our 50 united states would make such an
adventure rather impossible.

Now my bucket list, on the other hand, is pretty much endless….
as I tend to think more broadly while my husband ponders life with more of a
narrowed laser focus.

I want to see St Catherine’s Monastery in the south of the Sinai Penninsula.
I want to visit Krakow.
I want to visit Jerusalem.
I want to see Auschwitz and Dachau.
I want to be invited into the labyrinth of the Vatican’s library.
I want to go to Chartwell to visit my dear friend Winston…
I want to see Istanbul (aka Constantinople) and Hagia Sophia
I want to sit in Lambeau Feild, in the dead of winter, watching the Packers dominate
all the while wearing my cheese hat on my head,
freezing my a*$ off, as I cheer on Aaron Roger and company.

My husband, on the other hand, well, he could care less about any of that.

He does taunt me however with his wanting to moose hunt knowing that I
have emphatically stated that we will not ever bear nor moose hunt in this house.

Other than that, he’s pretty good.

Just find him a good fishing hole and he’s happy.

So I told him if he really wanted to see this one particular rather sacred and hallowed site,
I would make it happen.

He agreed.

And so today is the day we depart for this bottom of his bucket adventure…
the only adventure really in the bucket.

I have opted not to bring anything electronic with me but my phone.
No computer.
No Ipad.
Only a camera and a phone…

A phone in order to touch base with “the Mayor” of course!
…as in I hope she can get through this temporary separation from her chief aide
as she continues to resort to that continued foot in mouth miscue of hers…
Or rather…can this aide survive without the weekly fix of the Mayor…
for you see, this adventure was set in motion long before the Mayor came into our lives…


(the Mayor has a problem with always putting her foot in her mouth /
Julie Cook (aka cheif aide)/ 2018)

So how will you write your “blob” my husband asks…

“I won’t” I reply.

This is your adventure…

And so just know that I’ll be back in a couple of weeks–or three.

Yeah…
it’s that kind of adventure.

Prayers that his trepidation for this sort of travel will remain at bay
while I try to survive without the Mayor!

I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

looking for saints in all kinds of places

This is the very perfection of a man,
to find out his own imperfections.

St. Augustine


(St. Augustine of Hippo painting by Philippe de Champaigne, 1650)

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise;
your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning.
And so we humans, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you –
we who carry our mortality about with us,
carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud.
Yet these humans, due part of your creation as they are, still do long to
praise you.
You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy,
because you have made us and drawn us to yourself,
and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

The passage above appears to have been written by a person who was painfully aware
of his own mortality and sins yet yearns, nay longs,
to be in the arms of the Beloved Creator.

And so perhaps it might be hard for those of us reading these long ago penned words
to imagine that this person was not always so deeply attuned to
living life worshiping the Triune God.

For the past couple of days, my posts have veered toward the idea of saints.
No particular reason really…and when there seems to be no real rhyme nor reason for my
ramblings, that usually just means the Holy Spirit is at work and not so much
me.

Yesterday’s post offered two quotes summing up the notion of sainthood quite nicely…
yet it was especially the Kierkegaard quote which serves to remind us that God’s mastery
of creation is one thing, but to be able to make saints from sinners…
well, that’s something else altogether.

Augustine of Hippo…
a giant when it comes to thought and theory has been studied down through the ages by
all sorts of students—from theologians and philosophers to literates and historians…
many of whom have been Believers and many who have not.

Yet Augustine was not always one of Christendom’s most learned and revered theologian
turned saint.

According to Wikipedia,
“His first insight into the nature of sin occurred when he and a number of friends stole
fruit they did not want from a neighborhood garden.
He tells this story in his autobiography, The Confessions.
He remembers that he did not steal the fruit because he was hungry,
but because “it was not permitted.”
His very nature, he says, was flawed.
‘It was foul, and I loved it.
I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself.”
From this incident, he concluded the human person is naturally inclined to sin
and in need of the grace of Christ.”

Augustine went on to have a long-lasting affair with a woman who bore him an
illegitimate son.
He later broke off that relationship in order to marry a 10-year-old heiress but had to wait
two years until she was of legal marrying age.
During his wait, he took up with another concubine.

Yet the time came in which Augustine abandoned all concubines and fiancees alike
lamenting“that he was not a lover of wedlock so much as a slave of lust”

Eventually, at the age of 31, Augustine broke off all his relationships with these
various women because he, like many before and after him, had his Road to Damascus moment.
He was struck from his lofty, self-absorbed, carnal way of living by the
One True Omnipotent God who literally called out to him..

As Augustine later shared
“his conversion was prompted by a childlike voice he heard telling him to
“take up and read” (Latin: tolle, lege), which he took as a divine command to open the Bible
and read the first thing he saw.

Augustine read from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans –
the “Transformation of Believers” section, consisting of chapters 12 to 15 –
wherein Paul outlines how the Gospel transforms believers,
and the believers’ resulting behaviour.
The specific part to which Augustine opened his Bible was Romans chapter 13,
verses 13 and 14, to wit:

“Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness,
not in strife and envying,
but put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

It was at this moment that his life turned.

Augustine eventually penned an autobiography of sorts which many of us,
trained in the classics were at some point, required to read— Confessions.

It is from the pages of his Confessions that we read these beautiful and deeply
haunting words:

Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold,
Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.
Thou wast with me when I was not with Thee.
Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness.
Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispel my blindness.
Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.
For Thyself Thou hast made us,
And restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease.
Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new.

And thus what we have learned is that many of those who are known to us today as saints
seem to have, at some point or other figured things out.

Namely, that life isn’t all about them.

But life, rather, is a yearning…and that yearning is the created’s longing to be
one with the Creator.

Some seem to understand this better than others.

Many have been rogues and scallywags.
Some have been liars and drunkards.
Some have been rich and arrogant.
Some started out as cowards and turncoats yet became brave and true.
And some will simply be known only to God and God alone.

And so with all this talk about saints and sinners, I am struck by a current circus of sorts.

Brett Kavanaugh, the latest Supreme Court nominee, has been in the center of a maelstrom.

I don’t know much about him, but from what legal experts and judges on ‘both sides of the
aisle’ have said, he is a stellar wealth of legal prowess.
A fair and just man who is deeply knowledgeable with regards to right and wrong.

Yet his experience, his record, his knowledge, his examples don’t seem to matter to
this pack of hearing committee members who are foaming at the mouth,
as they rip into this man for the simple reason that they hate the man who nominated him.

Desperate Democrats are grasping at ugly straws to do their darndest to stop this nominee’s
chance of confirmation…even resorting to highschool hearsay.

And in so doing…these very politicians who so vehemently cling to the separation of
Church and State and find themselves cringing over the notion that their precious
Roe v Wade would be overturned… these worshipers of all things cultural and secular
now seem to be seeking a saint…a saint who doesn’t exist.
As all of this is just one more example of the irony of man standing at odds with
his blinding self-serving pride.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micha 6:8

What is a saint?

A saint is somebody who has learned to love God.
Learned to love. It’s nothing extremely mystical.
It’s that a person really tries to be united to God, to love our Lord with all his heart.
To escape from that prison that we find ourselves in sometimes of our personal
selfishness and self-centeredness, which we carry with us.
In spite of the fact that we have all sorts of shortcomings and sins and so forth,
if we are striving to love our Lord with our whole strength,
that is a growing in the sanctity of life.

Fr. Jerry Gehringer
from Being a Saint in the World


(mother’s tea rose bush is blooming again / Julie Cook / 2018)

“God creates out of nothing.
Wonderful you say.
Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful:
he makes saints out of sinners.”

Soren Kierkegaard,