the wisdom of a child

“One just soul can obtain pardon for a thousand sinners.”
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque


(a contemplative little Mayor / Julie Cook / 2019)

So I must make a confession on this Holy Saturday…

Whereas in years past my posts were reflective of this time of year…
starting with Ash Wednesday, those dark heavy 40 days of Lent leading up to the
Holy Week of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday—
as we culminate all of this on a triumphant Easter.

I’d pray earnestly.
I’d fast regularly.
I’d be diligent in my observance.
I would have even gotten some purposeful Lenten reading.
I would focus on the cross and that of an empty tomb.

However, this week has passed in a blur.
In fact, Lent passed in a blur.
As much of the year has passed in a blur.

I hardly even noted that yesterday was Good Friday as I was on the road in
torrential rains and horrendous traffic as my thoughts were elsewhere.

There was a time I would attend the 3 hours long Good Friday service while
purposely fasting this highest of Holy days.
I would go to the Great Easter Vigil…clutching my candle with deep intent.

However, this year has been different.
For lots of reasons I suppose.

Whereas there were both sorrow and loss in years past, I none the less managed to keep
the tires in the middle of the road.

This year, sadly, I pretty much simply fell off the tracks.

There are some distracting extenuating circumstances that will most likely be written
about when there is finally a bit of clarity…
But in a nutshell, my time and my focus have been pulled into a thousand different degrees…

And speaking of degrees—
I have been suffering through some sort of flu bug this past week that has left me hot
to the touch yet cold and shivery to the body.

Add in the Mayor visiting her satellite office and the walking dead comes to mind…
not in the zombie kind, but rather literally feeling dead while still walking.

There’s been little sleep, lots of heavy thoughts, as well as thoughts of anticipation with
a new little sheriff set to arrive any day now.

And having spent the past two days trying to keep an ever-growing, rambunctious, newly walking
borderline toddler out of harm’s way while trying to keep up at the same energy level has
been no easy task.

And yet I often find myself sitting back and simply marveling at her intense gaze.
I watch her little wheels turning while wondering what are her thoughts.

Her love, excitement, and openness to each and all she meets.
Be it animal or human or a stuffed animal or even an interesting plant.
Each one is met with a raised hand and a resounding “HI”

There is such an open innocence and trust that we adults,
who love her and are entrusted with her care, wish to warn her of the dangers
as we work to protect and keep her from harm.

Any parent or grandparent will tell you that that is a life long task that can,
in this current angry world’s day and age, leave anyone who loves a little one
both anxious and nervous.

Because we adults know that there is bad, there is danger and there is evil.

My husband noted this morning at breakfast,
as she gobbled up some bits of maple syrup-soaked waffles,
that if the world possed the same sort of sweetness and same refreshing innocence…
oh, how the world could be so different.

And so on this Holy Saturday, I am reminded that God is reminding me…
He is calling me to return to that same trusting spirit…
return to an openness…allowing Him to pour out His sweet balm
within this weary soul of mine.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!


(the Mayor in such a pondering pose / Julie Cook / 2019)

“No one who follows Me will ever walk in darkness (Jn 8:12).
These words of our Lord counsel all to walk in His footsteps.
If you want to see clearly and avoid blindness of heart,
it is His virtues you must imitate.
Make it your aim to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.
Christ’s teachings surpasses that of all the Saints.
But to find this spiritual nourishment you must seek to have the Spirit of Christ.
It is because we lack this Spirit that so often we listen to the Gospel without really hearing it.
Those who fully understand Christ’s words must labor to make their lives conform to His.”

Thomas á Kempis, p.15
An Excerpt From
The Imitation of Christ

fat tuesday

“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth,
faintheartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.

“But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility,
patience and love to your servant.

“Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sin and not to judge my brother,
for You are blessed from all ages to all ages.
Amen”

St. Ephraim the Syrian

“Self-denial means knowing only Christ, and no longer oneself.
It means seeing only Christ, who goes ahead of us,
and no longer the path that is too difficult for us…
Self-denial is saying only: He goes ahead of us; hold fast to him.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


(a king cake and mardis gras beads)

We’ve heard a lot of talk about Manic Mondays, Wordless Wednesdays, Fabulous Fridays
and yes–even Taco Tuesdays…
but today we are actually going to be talking about a Tuesday other than
a Taco Tuesday—
we will be talking about, as well as “celebrating,” Fat Tuesday…

Yet how many of us truly understand the significance of a Fat Tuesday
or an Ash Wednesday or even that of a Good Friday?

So today we’ll take a little closer look at Fat Tuesday…
saving the other days for later.

Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday— the eve of the beginning of Lent.
It is a day in which we are to “use up” the excess fat (think oil and butter)
in the house all before the beginning of the required fasting during the Lenten season.

Lent being the season that the Church marks the 40 days that Jesus spent in the
desert while being tempted by Satan.

During the 40 day fast, our Orthodox brothers and sisters will abstain from
consuming any fats, such as oils and butter, along with meat,
dairy products as well as alcohol.
Many of our Catholic and Anglican brethren will abstain from much the same.

There is even to be an abstinence from sexual intimacy…
meaning— ALL earthly pleasures are put on hold during the Great Fast of Lent…
because we are to fast not only from certain foods but from all that holds and binds
us to our earthly bodily pleasures….a time that affords us the opportunity of
transcending, as it were, our sinful, earthbound bodies.

It is a time in which we are to abstain from all that is earthly while striving
to turn more inward as well as upward with our thoughts and personal actions.
…A time of deep introspection and drawing closer to God while we lift
our spirits upward closer to the Spirit of God.

A time of abstinence, fasting, repentance and spiritual reverence.

Many denominations refer to Fat Tuesday as Shrove Tuesday, a term that comes
from the old middle English word ‘Shriven’ meaning that one goes to confession
and receives absolution for one’s sins.

A day, also, where many of the Christian faithful will indulge in a Pancake supper.

So not only are we to use up all of the excessive cooking fats in the house
as we prepare to ‘fast’—
we are also told that we are to both acknowledge and confess our sins while in turn,
receiving absolution.

The other day a fellow blogger, Christina Chase, offered an interesting post on Lent…
Fat and Ashes: A Lenten Preview

Fat and Ashes: A Lenten Preview

I greatly enjoyed reading Christina’s take on fat vs ashes.

Her opening to the post was very telling.
She even added the image of a typical fast food meal…our daily intake of
“fat” that we so often take for granted.
Literal fat, as well as the fat that represents our sinful nature.

Christina mirrors that fast food fat image with the talk of our over the top revelry…

Revelry, might I add, that is currently taking place in locatoms such as New Orleans,
Venice, and Rio–
the world’s biggest draws for all things wanton and that of pre-Lenten celebrations.
A revelry that only grows greater while the observance of the Spiritual season
of Lent grows less and less.

Christina reminds us that it has become a giant excuse for a party really.
A far cry from the original intent of preparations and fasting of which eventually
leads to the celebration of life in triumphant joy found in the Ressurection of Christ.

Christina shares…
“Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, and it represents the last occasion
for eating rich, fatty foods before the fast of Lent begins.
However, who abstains from fat during 40 days of Lent anymore?
Funny how that tradition has faded away,
but the tradition of overindulgence and revelry has only increased.
It says a lot about us.”

Christina’s observation of our “fat” goes well beyond the literalness of fat in our diet
to that which is more of a symbolic fat—that of greed, self-indulgence and materialism…
that which is personal to that of a national level as witnessed in our government with
it’s excessive pork-barrel spending at the taxpayer’s expense…a vicious cycle.

As a long time observer of Lent, I love Christina’s words…
“If done prayerfully, we discover that our fulfillment as human beings is not dependent
upon extra stuff. We are invited to shed the excess and find out what
it truly means to be fulfilled.”

Amen!

She continues…

“We humans are not merely taste buds and pleasure sensors, after all.
We have minds and hearts because we are not only of flesh but also of spirit,
being created by God in divine image. The pure goodness of our souls gets tainted
and soiled by self-centeredness — when we want what we want because it feels good,
even if we know that it isn’t truly good for us or anyone else.”

Christina then switches her focus to ashes—that which is left to pass away—
“Much of earthly life is perishable and will not continue into eternity with
our spiritual souls.”

Musing what, in this life, will she have allowed to turn to ash and fade away…

I shared with Christina that whereas I loved her take on the ashes of our lives,
I actually see those ashes as more of a goal…they are the lessening of the fat,
with the ash being a passing away of that which I have failed to do
or be—the ashes being a cleansing of the fat…a burning away of the negative.

So whatever our take may be of the fat and ashes of our lives…
may we all be drawn ever closer to the passion, to the
death and final resurrection of our Redeemer and Savior.

40 days of the lessening of ourselves and the lessening of the fat that hinders our very souls.

Here are two links to previous posts regarding
Lent, Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesdqy…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/ashes-to-ashesa-history-lesson/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/ash-wednesday/

between darkness and light


(sunset at Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2018)

****Firstly, may our hearts and prayers be with the students, parents, faculty, staff
and entire community of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward Co. Florida.
Our hearts break for those families whose lives will never be the same.

Secondly, I read an updated post offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden on Tuesday
that he was going in for emergency surgery Wednesday due to a detached retina—
this being the second and unforeseen such surgery. He asked for our prayers…
and pray we shall.

With this past Sunday marking the Christian observation of the Transfiguration, the
event in which Jesus is “transfigured” before his friends who had accompanied him to a
mountain to pray…one might find that such an event is perhaps odd fitting falling on
Sunday before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent…
because here we have a significant moment
of light versus a significant time of difficulty and darkness.

As this seems to be one more example of the juxtaposition of our faith as Christians…
Darkness versus Light….Light versus Darkness.

Bishop Ashenden notes this event in his Sunday homily taking place on the last Sunday
before Lent.
He opens his homily with the reading from Mark regarding the event we Christians
know as the Transfiguration of our Lord.

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a
high mountain, where they were all alone.
There he was transfigured before them.
His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.
And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.
Let us put up three shelters (some say altars)—one for you, one for Moses and
one for Elijah.”
(He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud:
“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain,
Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man
had risen from the dead.
They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things.
Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?
But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished,
just as it is written about him.”

Mark 9:2-11

I personally have always found the timing, or rather revealing, of Jesus’ Transfiguration
being remembered on the Sunday before Lent as a bit odd as it seems somewhat out of sync.
Here we have the Church calendar making its way toward Ash Wednesday and the
beginning of Lent, a time of solemness and yet we are given a story of Light and Glory.

Lent is a hard time for Christians–it is a 40 day lead up to the walking of the Via Dolorosa–
or the Way of Sorrows…
There is such a seriousness and heaviness and yet here we have a moment of shared and
exposed Glory with the marking of Blinding Light.

And of course, the voice of God telling those disciples present that
“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him.”

I can only imagine how those three disciples must have felt.
First and suddenly, Jesus is consumed by blinding light.
Then just as suddenly they are seeing men that needed no introduction or explanation
as to who they were, the disciples just seem to know…
the prophet Elijah (who according to Wikipedia as in The Book of Malachi prophesies Elijah’s
return “before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD”,
making him a harbinger of the Messiah and of the eschaton in
various faiths that revere the Hebrew Bible) and also Moses,
the man chosen by God to continue the lineage of mankind and all of Creation
following the near world-ending flood.

Pretty mind-blowing and unbelievable stuff.

And yet they seem to take it all in stride.

That’s the thing about the Bible—we are given specifics with very little in the way
of emotions.
“so afraid”, “trembling”, “sorrow”… descriptive words but not much in the way of
“hey!!! What just happened here??!!”

Yet Bishop Ashenden reminds us that their breath, that of Peter, James, and John,
must have been taken away by Glory…

For these three disciples suddenly found themselves out of the concept of both
space and time.

Both being humanly grounding concepts simply disappearing in the blink of an eye.

We aren’t told of the duration of this event—and I would suspect,
much like a dream that seems to last an entire night yet in actuality is but a minute
or so at best, this moment of absence yet consumingness must also be brief.

The good bishop states that time and space…of which is infused with Glory, simply melts…
Just as it does so later for both Paul and Stephen…
Just as we know that they, and eventually us, must melt ourselves in order to
truly see this Spiritual reality.
Because we can not be of either space nor time in order to be in the presence of God—
because God is not and cannot be, contained by either.

And so the Transfiguration is our moment when both space and time melt away, affording us
a Light cast just before we enter into the darkness.

For “Hope and the promise of Glory–pierces the darkness.
And we need this encouragement found in Christ’s transfiguration to feel the encouragement
in our perseverance through our own Via Dolorosa.

For we live our earthly lives caught up in darkness…
The recent shooting yesterday at the high school in Florida startingly jerks us back
to the knowledge that we live in a fallen world caught in the power play of
Light and Darkness.

As we will soon one day hear those long-awaited words…
“Behold I am with you always—until the end of time…

When both space and time and even ourselves will melt away and
we will find ourselves in the Light.

Hope is Springing

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest.
The soul, uneasy, and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

Alexander Pope


(cue the Lenten Rose / Julie Cook / 2018)

We still have so much to talk about…
So many pressing issues of the soul and the salvation of man.

That being our salvation.

There is so much history that we need to recall, lest we be doomed to repeat it all.

Discussing those things of true importance while discarding those unimportant things
vying for control.

There has been such a wearisome heaviness pressing down on us…
The cold.
The snow.
The political circus of both country and globe.
The helter-skelter stock market.
The flu.
The sheer burdens of our individual lives…
The uncertainty of the uncertainness.

The list seems endless.

I have felt as if I have not been outside, really outside, taking stock
of a winter barren waste-laid landscape in a string of seemingly nonending months of time.

Its just been too cold, too wet, too grey…
just too, too…

Until Tuesday.

I actually went outside and filled up the birdfeeders.
The sun was shining and it wasn’t freezing.
In fact, I could feel the sun’s warmth.
An unfamiliar yet most welcomed sensation.

I cleaned out the bird boxes, ridding them of the old nests…
making ready for new residents who will soon be out house hunting.

I trimmed away a few dead and broken branches from plants, bushes, and trees—
all who had suffered under the weight of the snow and ice—
trimming wich I had simply not felt called yet to tackle.

To be honest, I think I’ve just not felt like doing much of any of it, period.
I’ve not felt motivated or excited to do so…
both of which are not me.

I chalk such lack of motivation, lack of get-up-and-go, to life’s wicked blows,
to the winter blues and to just the never-ending chill which
has delighted in reaching down to my very bones.

The good news is that I do not have the full blown hemochromatosis I spoke of
about a week or so ago.
I am however a carrier…only half mutant.
Yet it’s off for the nuclear stress test come Monday…
all to figure out the reason for a sedentary blood pressure for a non-sedentary individual…
of which probably points to another mutant gene…

My son made me watch the X-Men cartoons with him when he was a little boy—
I always did have a soft spot in my heart for Beast—
I mean, who doesn’t love a soft-spoken, Shakespearian reading
manly man who happens to be blue?

Yet I suspect some might simply call my winter languidness, age.

However my little outdoor excursion Tuesday offered up a marvelous surprise.

Tucked away in what is usually a dark tiny tree ladened little nook,
an unsuspecting patch of pine straw nestled between two small boxwoods…
rests 4 nearly hidden reminders that there is indeed life lurking, waiting and
really ready to get busy.

And as if right on cue, just in time for the beginning of this week’s coming Lenten season…
a time which happens to be bringing both Valentine’s day and a certain grandbaby’s
due date…
a reflective time of death, Ressurection, and life…
the Lenten Roses are in full blooming regalia.

Hope does Spring eternal does it not?

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me,
and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,” declares the Lord,

Jeremiah 29:11-14

a vision of Lent

“Contrary to what might be expected,
I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful,
with particular satisfaction.
Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in
my seventy-five years in this world,
everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence,
has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained…
This, of course, is what the Cross signifies.
And it is the Cross, more than anything else,
that has called me inexorably to Christ.”

Malcolm Muggeridge

dscn2555
(Bonaventure Cemetery /Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook 2016)

Lent…
giving up
sacrificing
doing without
fasting
denial
hard
difficult
arduous
abstinence…

But what is it about this Lent…this entering into the desert…
this time of isolation and self denial….
What brings us here?
Why are we here at this crossroads…
Where is it that we are now bound…
What will be the point of this…
longing,
introspection
and intent of focus…

As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his wounds as he hangs.
We see his blood as he dies.
We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of his resurrection.
He bows his head, as if to kiss you. His heart is made bare open, as it were,
in love to you. His arms are extended that he may embrace you.
His whole body is displayed for your redemption.
Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind:
as he was once fixed to the cross in every part of his body for you,
so he may now be fixed in every part of your soul.

St. Augustine

img_0373
(detail/ painting by Julie Cook)

a continuation of beginnings and comings

See me safe up: for in my coming down,
I can shift for myself.

Thomas More

dscn4719
(the frozen demise of the mint / Julie Cook / 2017)

Despite our having just journeyed through the season known for all things of anticipation…
that sacred time of observing Advent, which then culminates with the wondrous arrival
of the illuminating Nativity…
we actually, in this silent and slumberous time of deep winter,
continue finding ourselves waiting and watching.

Found in the Latin word adventus, which is the translation of the Greek word parousia,
we find a word and meaning that has traditionally been used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ.
Not so much denoting a single and initial birth, but rather embracing the anticipation of
a second birth…a sort of re-coming…

Yet, as William Stringfellow observes,
“we live now, in the Untied States, in a culture so profoundly pagan that Advent
(or any other Christian “season”)*
is no longer really noticed, much less observed.
The commercial acceleration of seasons,
whereby the promotion of Christmas begins even before there is an opportunity to enjoy
Halloween, is superficially, a reason for the vanishment of Advent.
But a more significant cause is that the churches have become so utterly secularized
that they no longer remember the topic of Advent.
*(parentheses mine)

And so it seems that our secular and worldly selves have given way from our
continuation of waiting and watching to rather the glossing over of a key
observational time within our faith.
We have allowed, as it appears we have preferred, to move away from that which should
still be our focus, yielding rather, to the superficial luster of the fleeting.

For it seems that the notion of Advent, or any other of the “seasons” of the church,
has fallen way to the more glamorous secular association of what should actually be the truly
innate spiritual rhythms of our beings.

Yet as unrelenting and ever-faithful,
we now find ourselves transitioning from the anticipation found in Advent and the Nativity
to Epiphany, leading way to Ash Wednesday and the heaviness of the somber Lenten season…
as it too shall give way to the unending promise of Hope…

We enter, once again into a time of waiting and watching…
waiting not so much for the first birth with its earth shattering life that was cut
tragically short by a brutal yet necessary death…
but rather we, the dwindling yet tenacious faithful, both wait and watch
not for an ending associated with death but rather for the continuation of what is to come…

Life anew and everlasting…

As we find ourselves listening to once again, as well as claiming, those prophetic words of that
lone figure who cried out to the masses so long ago…
as his words continue to resonate in our hearts…

MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'”
Matthew 3:3

forty days and forty nights

“No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”
― John Chrysostom

“Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.”
Pope Francis

DSCN1729
(lone sheep along the cliffs near Teileannn, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Forty days and forty nights
Thou wast fasting in the wild;
Forty days and forty nights
Tempted, and yet undefiled.

Sunbeams scorching all the day;
Chilly dew-drops nightly shed;
Prowling beasts about Thy way;
Stones Thy pillow; earth Thy bed.

Should not we Thy sorrow share
And from worldly joys abstain,
Fasting with unceasing prayer,
Strong with Thee to suffer pain?

Then if Satan on us press,
Jesus, Savior, hear our call!
Victor in the wilderness,
Grant we may not faint nor fall!

So shall we have peace divine:
Holier gladness ours shall be;
Round us, too, shall angels shine,
Such as ministered to Thee.

Keep, O keep us, Savior dear,
Ever constant by Thy side;
That with Thee we may appear
At the eternal Eastertide.

Lyrics: George Hunt Smyttan (1856) (later revisions by Francis Potts)