immovable and unswerving

Be one of the small numbers who finds the way to life, and enter by the narrow gate into Heaven.
Take care not to follow the majority and the common herd, so many of whom are lost.
Do not be deceived; there are only two roads: one that leads to life and is narrow;
the other that leads to death and is wide. There is no middle way.”

St. Louis de Montfort


(a late season flitery visits what blooms remain /Julie Cook / 2019)

I admit that I was unfamiliar with both of our guest speakers this morning.

But it was the Dominican monk, the Venerable Louis of Grenada, that drew in my attention,
in part because of his book.
I was rather intrigued by the title of his book written in 1555, The Sinner’s Guide.

While doing a little background research into this centuries-old book, it appears this “guide
has quite the staying power as it has been compared to Thomas à Kempis’ “The Imitation of Christ”

It caught my eye because my name was right there in the title…The “Sinners” Guide.

Because are not all of our names in that title?

Both of our guests today, who offer us their words of wisdom and faith, remind us that
there are no middle paths but rather only two…
a wide path and a very narrow path…and our’s must be the narrow…
the more difficult but the only way.

We are reminded not to follow the majority of the herd as they are actually lost.
Much like the proverbial lemmings racing precariously toward the cliff of demise.

We are told not to put our trust nor hope in this world for it is rife with vanity,
malice, falsehood, and arrogance.

Be wary of false doctrine but rather remain steadfast…immovable with our goodness
unswerving in our faith…

“What is this brightness—with which God fills the soul of the just—but that clear knowledge
of all that is necessary for salvation?
He shows them the beauty of virtue and the deformity of vice.
He reveals to them the vanity of the world, the treasures of grace,
the greatness of eternal glory, and the sweetness of the consolations of the Holy Spirit.
He teaches them to apprehend the goodness of God, the malice of the evil one, the shortness of life,
and the fatal error of those whose hopes are centered in this world alone.
Hence the equanimity of the just.
They are neither puffed up by prosperity nor cast down by adversity.
‘A holy man’, says Solomon, ‘continueth in wisdom as the sun,
but a fool is changed as the moon.’ (Ecclus. 27:12).
Unmoved by the winds of false doctrine, the just man continues steadfast in Christ,
immoveable in charity, unswerving in faith.”

Venerable Louis Of Grenada, p. 135
An Excerpt From
The Sinner’s Guide

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

I wish….

“Without free will we cannot have moral responsibility.
And without moral responsibility we cannot have justice, law and indeed society.
Human beings cease to be human and instead become just a collection of chemicals
living out the pre-determined paths of our meaningless existence.”

David Robertson


(a small remaining cluster of American Beautyberries—probably what my mockingbird got
drunk off of / Julie Cook / 2017)

During the course of one’s life, it is hoped that at some point, one will actually understand—as in comprehend with inward knowing….
where exactly one has been,
where one currently is,
and where one still needs to go….

I can say that with a great deal of certainty that I have, in the course of figuring
out where it is I have been, along with where I currently am, as well as where
I need to be…. that I have in turn done things, said things, thought things…
all of which would have been best never to have done,
never to have said, and never to have been thought.

Some of these things were said, done and thought most willingly—
While others were said, done and thought more reactionary or as fleeting bits of thoughtlessness or even innate quirks of randomness…
None the less, having caused pain, sorrow and suffering to others while often being
totally unbeknownst to myself, as they were done with mere flippant thoughtlessness.

Some of which, over the years, have been most grievous—
and in hindsight, grievous to both others as well as to myself…

I have done, said and thought things with mean intent, ill intent, selfish intent,
hurtful intent, harmful intent, malicious intent, prideful intent, sinful intent…
as the intents are ad infinitum.

And I wish, in this place of life’s hindsight, that I could go back in time
undoing each action, word and thought that was wrong, hurtful, mean, boastful,
selfish and or egregiously sinful.

But I cannot.

I can perhaps apologize, if such an apology would be appropriate, yet there have
actually been instances that I was simply unaware of…
instances that I was clueless to and unaware that I even needed to make some sort
of amends.

Plus time has a way of removing us so far away physically from those first moments
of error that the opportunity to “make things right” or even simply to offer a
sincere word of remorse have closed for the duration of life on this earth.

People come and go…and lives each come to an end.
Actually making it is impossible to extend a conscious heartfelt ownership
of wrongfulness in some instances…

There is however, one thing certain…
we have a responsibility to ourselves as well as to others.

That is a fact of being a human being.

It’s something that is part and parcel with being a part of the human race.
And yet we most often forget that simple fact…and it is in that forgetfulness
where most of our errors come to surface.

Just as it is part and parcel of being human that we will make poor choices in
our actions, words and thoughts against both ourselves as well as others.
But what never changes is that each poor choice of action, word or thought has a consequence.

It’s just that some are more noticeable then others.

And when we have nothing but hindsight to remind us, it is then and there, in the
solitude of our remembrances, that we must seek the Grace that God so freely offers.

The act of contrition and true repentance.

As our remorse and sorrow over these mis-actions, words and thoughts weigh heavy on the burden of a soul.
And if they do not, then the checking of a pulse just might be in order.

Grace will not erase our actions, words or thoughts, once so arrogantly, vainly or ignorantly displayed, but it will always change our perception of such actions, words and thoughts just as it will change us…
ever so slightly back to that image our Creator had of us all along…

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.
It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions,
and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,

Titus 2:11-12

God does not change

“The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards
the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself hath ordained.”

President George Washington
April 30, 1789
First Inaugural Address

When we are no longer able to change a situation,
we are challenged to change ourselves.

Viktor Frankl

george-on-horseback-web
(painting by Rembrandt Peale 1830)

As human beings,
we are conditioned to understand that…
to live is to change.

We have discovered most often through the angst of struggle,
that if change is inevitable,
then may we be the masters of such change…

May we control it,
issue it,
and stop it…
as only we see fit…

For we have both resisted as well as orchestrated change.

Yet in the arrogance of control,
we have seen, time and time again,
that the stonewall to change,
the one thing America cannot, nor can ever force change upon,
is the Creator of all that is.

So in her growing egotistical frustration, this nation
has chosen to forgo the need for a Creator…
vying, rather, to be her own creator…

And the actions of her folly will be her undoing….

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face,
and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin
and heal their land

2 Chronicles 7:14

Dependance

God’s means of delivering us from sin is not by making us stronger and stronger, but by making us weaker and weaker. That is surely rather a peculiar way of victory, you say; but it is the divine way. God sets us free from the dominion of sin, not by strengthening our old man but by crucifying him; not by helping him to do anything, but by removing him from the scene of action.
Wathcman Nee

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(tiny baby wrens / Julie Cook / 2016)

The age old conflict…
The internal struggle which has dogged man, constantly nipping at his heels,
is found in his angst filled struggle with dependence.

On the one hand, God, the Creator of all that ever was or will be,
asks of man but one thing…
Trust

Enter the conundrum.

Ever since that forever altering moment in the garden,
when man and woman decided they knew more,
knew better than of their Omnipotent Creator,
the battle between independence and dependence ensued.

Now man is caught in a never ending cycle…
Striving for his independence and his freedom,
proudly asserting his authority…
while boastfully, and even arrogantly, leaving his mark…

That is until his fragile world falls apart…
then he returns to that place where he was first asked to trust….

As the vicious cycle between dependence and independence continues….

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:26

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a humble heart

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.
Saint Augustine

“It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment.”

St.Bernard

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(a humble snail near the Cliffs of Mohr / Country Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s hard balancing a humble spirit when one is living in the land of the free and home of the brave…
Whose fighting force boasts “the few, the proud, the marines”…
We are accustomed to being a world power, a superpower, a leader among nations…
When others run away, we rush in….
We are stivers, fighters, winners.
If we’re ever knocked down, we get back up.
We love those come from behind stories of triumph.
We are like the cream, always rising to the top.
We prefer being accomplished, polished, knowledgeable as well as rough, tough and scrappy…

That’s just how we are and we like it that way.

Yet at times we forget that we are not the be all to end all.
We forget that we have come to and by this rather lofty position of ours by hard work, toil, suffering, bruising and bleeding by digging our way out from under plight, oppression, depression, aggression…doing battle——battles we have considered as necessary, right and just within our purist of freedom for all.

We speak of unalienable (or inalienable depending on what you’re reading) rights given to us by the Creator–meaning that such “rights” cannot be taken away as they have been pre and hard wired within our being as human beings, granted to us at time of “creation” by the Creator. A Creator we now no longer have much time to listen to let alone give any sort or credit or credence to…

Some of us see that from time to time it can be hard to remain humble of heart and spirit when we’re accustomed to being large and in charge. Sometimes arrogance slips in along with haughtiness.
As we grow proud over and by our accomplishments and endeavors, we tend to gloat and boast more than we should. We pride ourselves in our self-efficiency, our knowledge and in our very “freedoms.”

Yet I fear we lose sight of our humble beginnings.
We begin to take things both tangible and intrinsic for granted.
We puff up our chests while resting on the laurels of our predecessors–forgetting that it could all be taken away tomorrow, or today…leaving us where we started, with little to nothing to call our own.

We assume perhaps more than we should.
Many of us have forgotten what it is to “go without”
We place our actors, sports figures, entertainers, politicians, successful entrepreneurs, slick talking religious leaders and leading officials in the limelight and up on pedestals, touting them as heroes–forgetting what a hero actually is and that these individuals are merely fallible human beings as we seem to sickly marvel and oddly enjoy watching them fall. Funny how that is with human beings.

Yet we continue to yearn and covet what it would be to “be like them” for we too want to be in the limelight and one of the “beautiful people” as we want the glitz, the glitter, the money the success—as we rationalize that we would handle all of the “pressure” of being famous far better, not allowing it to go to our heads while giving “x amount” to charity…

How many of us rationalize that if God would just let us when the lottery, we’d be so good with the winnings by giving a designated share to charity, we’d remain just a plain and simple are we are…yet deep down, we feel as if it would be the money, the abundance of which, which would make our lives so much easier and better…and perhaps for a while it would as we would set off in the pursuit of paying off only to obtain and to have…new cars, new homes, new vacations, new clothes…

We must be mindful that there are those around this planet of ours who don’t rationalize about winning a lottery…rather they dream of escaping their lot in life and fleeing to America because that is the land of freedom and of choice and of abundance and of safety…

It’s all a matter of perspective I suppose…

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(seagull rest on the head of a statue / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

And yet it is those voices of ancient wisdom and those voices of the past— those who were able to see through the haze of brilliance, pride and self efficacy–who understand that it is the humble heart which is the true attainable goal.

Being able to yield to the one who is always Greater–as we are the ones who are finite and it is He who is the infinite.

I fear we have lost sight of our own humility of being as we have forgotten that it was the king of Kings whose birth was predestined to take place in a lowly stable, of lowly parents in a small and lowly village of insignificance. . .seems this humility business is not an underlying theme by random chance.

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 28-29

Often all it takes in order to knock one down a notch or two is for a bird to rest over or simply fly over ones head, doing what birds do– reminding one of one’s place in life…as the birds neither discern or discriminate as to whom is better than another–

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(a seagull surveys the city of Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

You have no idea. . .or maybe, perhaps you do

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Thomas Merton

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

Ode to the backyard rabbit. . .

You have no idea just how much you truly mean to me. . .
Not that you know me or that I know you—
Yet we know of one another’s existence.
You are out there and I’m back here, usually up, looking outward at you, down there.
And I know you know, just as you know I know.

For you see, I need to know that you and your world remains, as always, the same.
I need to know that when I have fought through another day, another journey, another time of attending to duties I would prefer would disappear, I know you are out there, doing what it is that you do day in and day out.

When I turn on the television, only to see a world that I no longer recognize, I know you are the same, as in, you never changed.
When I see a country I no longer understand, I can thankfully understand you.
When I grow weary of the pettiness, the arrogance, the self-centeredness of man, I can look out at you, unencumbered, offering no pretense, no bravado. . . just being yourself. . .
and I can exhale–simply enjoying watching you, simply being you. . .

And as I ramble on about the small joys received in the simple act of sitting back and basking in the solitude of watching a wild rabbit, or two, going about its life–eating, running, jumping. . .appearing simply happy to be alive, I am struck by the very words I have used to offer up to a little rabbit—that in much the same vein, the words may be offered up as a simple prayer to God—

That He knows, before I know, just how much He means to me. . .
despite my inability to grasp or readily recognize that need.
That I can actually rest in the knowledge that He is who He is and has been since the beginning of time–That He is not merely the Creator of all that was, and all that is, and all that will be. . .
but that He is also a Father. . .my Father. . .
who loves,
who comforts,
who sees,
who knows,
who indeed does understand.
That He mourns just as I do when I look out over this world of ours.
As thankfully, He remains steadfast, always the same—
unmoved,
unchanged,
never transformed or moulded by mortals who are constantly changing and transforming our own world to fit our own selfish desires, perverse pleasures, and arrogant agendas.

He offers me the gift of Creation—as I find in that Creation a small creature, that offers me a glimpse of everlasting peace. . .

And whereas the rabbit and I merely recognize one another’s existence, I can rest in the fact that The God of all of Creation, does indeed know, and knows most personally, me. . .and that single thought alone is what allows me the ability to exhale at the end of each long and hard fought day. . .

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)