the contemplation found in nighttime shadows

“If then we have angels, let us be sober,
as though we were in the presence of tutors;
for there is a demon present also.”

St. John Chrysostom


(a little evening, pre-bath, walk with the mayor / Julie Cook / 2019)


(a screech owl watches our little evening walk / Julie Cook / 2019)

“I never found anyone so religious and devout as not to have sometimes a subtraction of grace,
or feel a diminution of fervor.
No saint was ever so highly rapt and illuminated as not to be tempted sooner or later.
For he is not worthy of the high contemplation of God who has not,
for God’s sake, been exercised with some tribulation.
For temptation going before is usually a sign of ensuing consolation.
For heavenly comfort is promised to such as have been proved by temptation.
To him that overcometh, saith our Lord, I will give to eat of the tree of life.”

Thomas à Kempis, p. 65
An Excerpt From
Imitation of Christ

making the invisible, visible…

Because God is love, and we are made in his image and likeness, our relationships should
reflect him in the world.
This, perhaps, is the greatest form of evangelization:
to make an invisible God visible to the world through our love.

Jason Evert
from Purity 365


(a butterfly at the Butterfly House, Callaway Gardens / Julie Cook / 2019)

“Indeed, the glory to which God raises the soul through grace is so great that even the
natural beauty of the Angels is as nothing compared with it.
The Angels themselves wonder how a soul that was sunk in the desert of this sinful earth
and robbed of all natural beauty can be clothed with such a wonderful splendor.
But this wonder of the Angels will not surprise us when we see and hear that God Himself
considers the beauty of grace with astonishment and rapture.
For how otherwise can we explain what He says in The Canticle of Canticles to the soul:
‘How beautiful art thou, my love, how beautiful art thou!’

(Cant. 4:1).”
Fr. Matthias J. Scheeben, p. 133

Merry Christmas to one and all….

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:14

Holy Waiting

“Wait on the Lord” is a constant refrain in the Psalms,
and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting.
He is not in such a hurry as we are,
and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need
for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time.
When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God.
When action is needed,
light will come.”

― J.I. Packer

“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty,
to carry within oneself the unanswered question,
lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.”

Elisabeth Elliot

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(The Holiness of God surrounded by Seraphim /Illuminated manuscript / Bibliotheque Nationale de France)

“Our world is shaking, about to erupt.
Demonic powers are storming the church, like autumn storms sweeping through the woods.
We live in a tine when people everywhere are agitated;
the masses are confused as to what is true and what is false;
and yet they are waiting for what is ultimately to come.
And it shall come!

We live in the midst of tyranny, encircled on all sides, seemingly unfree.
But let us lift our heads high; the hour of our liberation is drawing near.
Now we must be strong in the hope that God will reveal his redemption;
he who is coming will take away everything that is part of our fallen nature.”

In holy waiting we’re at home,
The windows open to the sun,
Though shades are spreading o’er us.
With joy expectant hearts are fed;
Till now hope’s flaming light has led
And brightly burned before us.

Eberhard Arnold
In Holy Waiting

When the Time Was Filled
Christmas Meditations
Plough House Publishing

Somewhere between the death sentence and death

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

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(discarded broken pieces of a deer antler / Troup Co. GA / Julie Cook / 2015)

“You can’t go in yet, they’re changing the linens” the head floor nurse’s words halting the day’s visit before it had a chance to begin.
The door remianed slightly ajar, just open wide enough to see the shadows of two figures working with lightening speed to change and replace soiled linens with fresh, as the helpless patient still remained attached to the bed— wired in with all sorts of IVs, oxygen tubes and monitors.

The cries of agony and pain could not be ignored as they wafted up and down the corridor.
The mere touch sent excruciating pain through the frail shell of what was once a 53 year old vibrant “mom”
Turning to face the wall, as if that would make it all stop, seemed the only recourse for the one waiting outside.

“Enough” could be heard screaming in the recesses of a young mind which wrestled with the hows and the whys of suddenly standing alone pushing against a generic wall hoping to blend in and disappear.

Six weeks was all it was.
From start to finish, six weeks.
Just barely over a month.

It could have been six weeks, six months, six hours, or six years.
Time is really an irrelevant thing until a sentence is read or a tragedy occurs.
It’s not until the grand stopwatch of life is quickly clicked, when the hands immediately stop turning, that the shouts of
“no fair”
“that’s not enough time”
“you cheated”
are heard echoing across the ages.

Mortality met immortality that early September day. . .when time oddly stood still yet raced at breakneck speed toward a different dimension.
The mere brushing of the now thin and fine patchy hair sent shrieks of pain out the door.
“STOP” was ricocheting throughout the young brain and began spilling unknowingly out of a twenty five year old mouth.
“Just stop, it hurts too much, just let her be” falling out and quietly trailing away as a whisper from now trembling lips.

And then just as quickly as the agony had made itself known, there was now nothing but silence.
A haunting stillness as time stood still.
“You can go in now” came the voice of a nurse looking back over her shoulder at the frozen specter against the wall.
“Going in to what?” wondered the young aching soul.
Going in to the near lifeless shell that only comes back to life when touched or moved, while letting all know that pain was still very real and very constant? Going into a drawn-out ending which now seemed to mock the very spirit of Life which was all but willing and pushing hopefulness forward?
What really was the point anymore?
What really was the point to anything anymore?
How cruel this sick dance with death had seemed to become.
A wave a nausea washed over limp legs that were now being willed, from some other place, forward through the open door.

“It’s not about you, you know” came the words of a stronger wisdom.
“There’s something else going on here”
“This is not all about you or your loss”
“It’s not all about her pain”
“It’s not all about her suffering”
“There is more, more going on that none of us can see”
“There is business, yet finished”
“Two are now meeting. . . where, we know not, but the meeting is crucial”
“You’ve got to see, you’ve got to understand this is so much bigger than you or her”
“It’s so much bigger than any of us can ever imagine. . .”

A lifeless body hung battered and torn, dangling like a limp doll in the wind.
The once living blood now stopped flowing. The driving rain made it appear as if it was still trailing down the contours of the flesh.
Flesh that was torn away in gaping chunks.
Bruised and shredded, what remained had taken on a dull blue pallor.
The wet red trails, flowing down the wooden support, pooled in the mud, as now rivers of blood and mud cascaded down the hill.

The wickedly dark clouds overhead hung as a heavy curtain stretching outward in every direction.
Cracks of electricity streaked dangerously to the ground, sending onlookers scurrying for shelter.
The earth began to give way under foot. Several fell down the hill, sliding in the blood saturated mud.
Everyone now seemed covered in the blood of Innocence.
The peals of thunder echoed as the sounds of a death march, now deafening, caused many to cover their ears.

Chaos had taken hold in the city, skipping merrily along its sinister path.
Demons could be seen darting between the shadows.
What was now happening with this single death as to cause such pandemonium? The lone thought hung heavily in the air, which was now filled with a rotting stench and the acrid odor of sulfur.
Panic was racing through hapless minds, as the words of the prophets echoed off the stone walls.
The great divide, the massive division slicing as a knife through all of time, was about to be bridged.

The separation was to finally be made whole as the universe momentarily stood still.
Time stopped,reversed and frantically raced forward simultaneously. Daylight was covered by darkness, as mystery was hidden from all eyes.
Even the Father turned His gaze.
For that which is without sin cannot gaze upon sin as He who was sinless, became all sin.
Both angels and demons trembled with fear.

What was the price?
The cost?
The expense?
One life for all?
Really?
And yet what of the pain, the hurt, the sorrow, the misery, the lies, the ugliness and the sin?
What of the agony still felt, still experienced?
What of the broken hearts and the unfair losses?
What of the tragedies?
What of the premature deaths?
What of all violence?
What of the wars?
What of the sickness?
What of the cancer?

“It’s not so much about this life you know”
“It’s about that which we cannot see or may not yet know”
“It’s not about your pain right now”
“It’s hard”
“It’s difficult”
“It hurts”
“It is terribly unfair, unfair to our human sense of such. . .”
“Yet you’ve got to know, you’ve got to hold on, you’ve got to hold on to the one fact that all of this, all this misery, all this hurt goes beyond us, well beyond us. . .it goes beyond the here and now”
“You can’t see, not yet any way”
“You’re simply not able to see yet”
“. . .but you will”
“You’ve got to know that this, all of this, all of this hurt, this pain, is but a mere breath to a dimension that we can’t yet phantom”
“Hold on, just hold on. . . and now. . .you’ve got to do one last thing. . .you’ve got to let go, you’ve got to let her go, let her go to do what she needs to do. . .with Him. . .”

“but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
2 Timothy 1:10

and the Angels rejoiced

“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.”
― George MacDonald

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(the closeup of a gorgeous heirloom pumpkin, pieces of God’s marvelous creative talents / Julie Cook / 2014)

And on the first day, when God went about the task of creating Creation,
The Angels rejoiced.
God waved His hand, suddenly appearing out of the nothingness, there shone a great Light.
The Angels rejoiced.
He raised His head both up and down establishing a vast sky above and an open landscape below.
The Angels rejoiced.
He shed a single tear and immediately vast oceans, seas and waterways filled the landscape.
The Angels rejoiced.
He blew the dust from His hand, which in turn set the stars and the planets in motion, sending them dancing across the heavens.
The Angels rejoiced.
He formed both sun for day and moon for night.
The Angels rejoiced.
He placed his hands on the landscape and pulled his fingers across the surface, all manner of plant and tree sprouted forth from His very touch.
The Angels rejoiced.
He opened up his hand and from his palm poured animals, reptiles, insects and birds of every size, shape and color.
The Angels rejoiced.
He took handfuls of the mud which covered the landscape. The mud was full of the water, bits of the land–it was full of the plants, leaves, pollen, seeds and straw, as well as the dung and droppings of all the animals, reptiles, birds and insects.
He began pushing and pulling the mud, mixed with all the bits and pieces of His new Creation, through His strong yet tender hands.
He smiled contently as He felt the warm, soft, wet mud move and squish through His fingers.
He worked steadily but thoughtfully.
He shaped the muddy mix and moulded it until it was just right.
And there in the palm of His massive hand rested אֲדָמָה, adamah, Adam.
and for now, the Angels Rejoiced.
But God was not finished.
There, in the center of the first Light, the true Light of Light, from the very God of the very God, lay a tiny piece of God’s heart. It beat in unison with God’s heartbeat yet is stayed perfectly suspended in the center of the true Light.
For God knew that Adam was a product of both light and dark.
There would be a time that Adam and his people would prefer life in the darkness.
God knew that in order to bring Adam and his people back to the true Light, He would have to provide Adam and his people with the small beating piece of God’s own heart.
And God proclaimed “I will be his father, and he will be my son (2 Samuel 7:14)
And the Angels Rejoiced.

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(closeup images of gorgeous heirloom pumpkins, pieces of God’s marvelous creative talents / Julie Cook / 2014)

Valleys

“When walking through the “valley of shadows,” remember, a shadow is cast by a Light.”
Austin O’Malley

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(a beautiful view of the Basilica Papale di San Francesco and the sweeping valley below Assisi as seen from a journey up to the summit of the hill town ,The Rocca Maggiore Castle / Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

Today all of mankind walks through the valley of the shadow of death,
as a veil is pulled across all clarity.
Unbeknownst to humankind, a war currently wages for its very soul.
Oblivious to the cost paid, the sacrifice made or the blood spilt,
the sons of Adam strut about in the small world they have created for themselves.

Angels and demons wrestle over the lives of clueless specters as
the former Bearer of Light holds court.
Shoulders contort as bones separate from familiar joints.
Lungs burn desperately for oxygen as stretched muscles ache pushing upward for air.

Wails and cries mix in a never-ending cacophony of agony,
as a mother’s heart breaks.
Memories of the nine months of wonder and awe suddenly give way to the Prophet’s cries.
Death’s cold hand grazes her cheek as he sweeps toward the cross.
The secrets held deep in her heart, now smashed into a thousand drops of blood,
while her tears fall to dust.

“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani”
The heaviness of a breathless statement is carried away on the wind,
as those who have come to gawk, cackle with glee.
“Where is you god now prophet?”
“Free yourself and us, oh you mighty king”
Scorn and ridicule horrifically collide into conviction and hope.

The hour finally draws nigh as Day gives way to Night.
Light lets go, allowing Darkness its false victory.
With the toll now paid, as the demons dance and shout, the lone Creator turns His back.
Man, still unaware of his role, sports the Innocent’s blood on his hands.

Silence is all that remains.
The deep dark emptiness filling the void turned tomb,
as the Earth trembles and quakes.
There is no hope.
Not today.
“It is finished” is all He said.