awake at night

“When you awake in the night,
transport yourself quickly in spirit before the Tabernacle, saying:
‘Behold, my God, I come to adore You, to praise, thank, and love you,
and to keep you company with all the Angels.'”

St. John Vianney


(sunset over the the gulf /Julie Cook / 2018)

The past several nights I have woken up around 2:30 AM—wide awake.
Hot.
Sweaty.
Uncomfortable.
Despite the AC running and my husband gently snoring, sleep for me is over.

My back aching with the slightest move–and now an aching neck and shoulder.

It hurts to turn, to roll, to twist.

Dreams, when they come, have been vivid, leaving me wondering and pondering.
Pondering much too much for such an unwelcoming hour.

Time passes with no relief as the numbers of the clock tick on and on.
No calm nor slumber.

Sleep, for me, is often elusive but more so as of late.

When the morning light comes, it is almost rude and unkind as
I find it harder and harder to get up since sleep now tries to
arrive right when it’s time to get up.

Exhausted and ill, I grouse at the day.

Last night, my brain turned on, my eyes popped open and it was only 2:30— my mind racing.
I ruminated on and on like a cow chewing cud over my latest odd dream.
Unresolved ancient issues or just the aching of a herniated disc?

I examine the past.
“NO”, I shout to my hyper-focused mind…” this is not the time!”

So my brain now toys with me, as the unending partial lyrics to a song
begin playing over and over as the earworm bores deeper into my brain.

“STOP”, I silently plead to my restless brain….”just let me rest”, I implore.

And so…I pray.
Focusing on that which is greater than the madness, greater than my weariness.
I offer myself over to You as a sacrifice…
Hear my prayers oh Lord…

“Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner”

Over and over I repeat the soothing words until I sense my mind and body quieting in unison.

“My Lord, I offer you myself in turn as a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
You have died for me, and I in turn make myself over to you.
I am not my own.
You have bought me; I will by my own act and deed complete the purchase.
My wish is to be separated from everything of this world;
to cleanse myself simply from sin; to put away from me even what is innocent,
if used for its own sake, and not for yours. I put away reputation and honor,
and influence, and power, for my praise and strength shall be in you.
Enable me to carry out what I profess.”

Bl. John Henry Newman, p. 135
An Excerpt From
Everyday Meditations

If we only had a brain…and a heart…

I could while away the hours
Conferrin’ with the flowers
Consultin’ with the rain
And my head I’d be a scratchin’
While my thoughts are busy hatchin’
If I only had a brain

Lyrics from “If I only had a brain”
Wizard of Oz


(Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz)

A few weeks back, I wrote a post entitled “if we only had a heart”

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2018/12/14/if-i-only-had-a-heart/

But now I fear we truly need our brains as well…

Spurgeon reminded us that we needed to use our brains.
We needed to read, and in turn, learn from what we read…
meaning we learn from other’s brains…

In Education, we call this ‘teach one, tell one’…

The notion being that one is taught, and they, in turn, teach another…

The passing on of knowledge…

“Give yourself unto reading. The man who never reads will never be read;
he who never quotes will never be quoted.
He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains,
proves that he has no brains of his own.
You need to read.
. . .
We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure time,
is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which
afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service.
Paul cries, “Bring the books” — join in the cry.”

But what if what we now read is actually all wrong?

What if the sources we have trusted, the people we have trusted are no longer using their brains?
What if what they write, report and share are all wrong?

And so in turn, what we think we are learning, seeing and reading and eventually sharing
is all wrong?

The most egregious of which is what we have today–a story known simply as
“The Covington Catholic Boys”

I’m pretty outraged by all of this…
This idiocy of ours.
This indignation gone mad.

I’ve read some marvelous posts regarding this madness written by those with brains…
those who can say what I want to say but find myself currently at a loss…
At a loss due to this lunacy and due to just feeling too crappy to put decent
thoughts together in order to flow…
So I will let my friends with brains set the story straight while I have come to the conclusion that
we need to be a people who must now yearn for both our hearts and brains:

Slim Jim from the Domain of Truth:

https://veritasdomain.wordpress.com/2019/01/22/nathan-phillips-problematic-slander-of-the-covington-boys/

Citizen Tom:

THE DANGER OF BELIEVING PROPAGANDA

IB from Insaitybytes2

https://insanitybytes2.wordpress.com/2019/01/21/about-those-covington-catholic-boys/

I could while away the hours
Conferrin’ with the flowers
Consultin’ with the rain
And my head I’d be a scratchin’
While my thoughts are busy hatchin’
If I only had a brain
I’d unravel ev’ry riddle
For my individdle
In trouble or in pain
With the thoughts
That I’d be thinkin’
I could be another Lincoln
If I only had a brain
Oh, I could tell you why
The ocean’s near the shore
I could think of things
I’d never thunk before
And then I’d sit down
And think some more
I would not be just a muffin’
My head all full of stuffin’
My heart all full of pain
And perhaps I’d deserve you
And be even worthy, even you
If I only had a brain

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

reading my mind…

“The first peace, which is the most important,
is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship,
their oneness with the universe and all its powers,
and when they realize at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit,
and that its center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.”

Black Elk


(shelf fungus hidden in the woods / Julie Cook / 2017)

Time is a funny commodity.
Whereas we are each allotted 24 hours within a single day’s time, those hours are
not always necessarily our own…

Ebbing and flowing like the tide, what is ours and what is not, comes and goes.
Sometimes plentiful, sometimes fleeting…

And as I’m finding myself currently without the ample time I’d prefer
allowing for say our, as in you and me, being able to chat more in-depth
about those things I think most important for our current track of exploration…
I must settle instead for the reflection of a quick observation.

There was a ‘Verse of the Day’ that came in around Saturday or so….

“I the Lord search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.”

Jeremiah 17:10

And like most mornings and time, I did my due diligence in opening, reading and
in turn, mentally ticking off the one more item on the packed list of to dos
thus far for the day.

Yet it was there, right then and there, that I stopped suddenly,
almost stumbling over my own feet as I read….
“I the Lord search the heart AND EXAMINE THE MIND…

whoa…

I totally understand the use of the word ‘heart’…that’s a plentiful enough word when
reading scripture….but it was the notion that God was / is not only reading,
but was / is rather actually examining my mind.

Really???

Imagine that….
that one little thought made me shift my weight from side to side
as if I were a bit uncomfortable….hummm…

Examining is not just a cursory passing or glancing over but more like a
thorough inspection….a pretty image was not now what I was watching unfold.

You know that thing that is basically like a steal trap…??
that thing we call a brain which houses a mind that runs and races
almost constantly…
Racing even while we sleep, racing with all sorts of positives accented by a
plethora of rubbish???

Rubbish that no one on earth is ever privy to unless we allow those thoughts to
then flow from moving lips—-but chances are…the lips don’t slip.

Our thoughts, we fiercely believe, are our own.
For both good and bad, they are ours.
By all outwardly appearances, we can look to be a paragon of virtue,
but peel away our head and read that racing ticker tape….
and any notion of virtue flies right out the window.

Yet we are the only ones who know such—everyone else just sees the exterior
paragon.

And yet here, in what I’m reading, I’m being told that He reads my mind.

My ugly, dirty, selfish, self absorbing thoughts…
thoughts that are less than loving, pleasant, gracious or kind.

Hateful, hurtful, cussing, fusing…unsavory thoughts….

UGH!

So I stop.
I stop reading.

This is bad…
this is really really bad.
I know my thoughts and if God is picking through them,
then I might as well be toast.

So I go seek out the full passage…
and I see that there is actually a ray of hope sitting a bit further
down the page….

Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed;
save me and I will be saved,
for you are the one I praise.

Jeremiah 17:14

As I am reminded that not only is it important to physically tick off my daily
chores and actions…it shall behoove me to be mindfully focused…
that I may be healed and in turn saved…from particularly myself….

The closet of the soul is the body; our doors are the five bodily senses.
The soul enters its closet when the mind does not wander hither and thither,
roaming among things and affairs of the world, but stays within, in our heart.

Our senses become closed and remain closed when we do not let them
be attached to external sensory things, and in this way our mind remains
free from every worldly attachment, and by secret mental prayer
unites with God its Father. “And thy Father which seeth in secret shall
reward thee openly,” adds the Lord.

God who knows all secret things sees mental prayer and rewards it
openly with great gifts. For that prayer is true and perfect which
fills the soul with Divine grace and spiritual gifts.
As chrism perfumes the jar the more strongly the tighter it is closed,
so prayer, the more fast it is imprisoned in the heart,
abounds the more in Divine grace.

So, brother, when you enter your closet and close your door, that is,
when your mind is not darting hither and thither but enters within your heart,
and your senses are confined and barred against things of this world,
and when you pray thus always, you too are then like the holy angels,
and your Father, Who sees your prayer in secret,
which you bring Him in the hidden depths of your heart,
will reward you openly by great spiritual gifts.

St Gregory Palamas

“Who will save your soul?”

“To save all we must risk all.”
Friedrich Schiller

“poor boy! I never knew you, Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that would save you”
― Walt Whitman

‘You are no saint,’ says the devil. Well, if I am not, I am a sinner, and Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Sink or swim, I go to Him; other hope, I have none.
Charles Spurgeon

DSCN0801
(Timoleague Friary / County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Who will save your soul…..?”

A lyric trapped inside one’s head, playing over and over and over…
Had it been the background song at the grocery store?
Newly imposed on some uptick television commercial?
Something playing in the distance of one’s small world….?
As it appears to have been picked up at some point during one’s day…
and is now forever stuck on constant replay, deep inside the recesses of the subconscious.

The same line running around and around inside the brain.
Unconsciously hummed, muttered, softly sung…
When suddenly, unable to remain on the periphery…the words come crashing into focus.

More than a simple lyric to an older song.
More than a folksy balard offered up by a young woman long ago
More than a simple soulful melody caught inside your head…

“Who will save your soul…?

It is not merely a lyric, a song or a random musing…
It is rather one of the most deeply profound questions ever to be asked, pondered or entertained.

It is a question that spans the very inception of both time and space.
A question queried for both life as well as death.

If it is to be agreed that each being, each life, does indeed have a soul…
then the question certainly begs to be asked, who or what will save each and every soul?
When all is said and done…who is the savior?
When life, as it is currently known, has come to its conclusion and ceases to be…
be it suddenly and unexpected, stolen simply by time… or be it slow and simply accepted…
What then of the soul?
Does it extinguish itself with the last living breath?
Will it simply be left to float upon the whispers of others?

Will this soul be claimed
Or
Is it all mere nothingness?
A fabrication?
A myth?
A fable?

The question is being asked…Who will save your soul?

Yet the answer, this answer of both life and death, remains for many something oddly to be ignored, left uncomfortably unanswered….

So….
What say you then my friend….
Who will save your soul….?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast
Ephesians 2:8-9

Once in a blue moon. . .there is clarity

“The moon in her chariot of pearl”
― Oscar Wilde

“What really matters is:—
1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.
2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.
3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”
4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please will you do my job for me.”
5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”

― C.S. Lewis

DSC02369
(The blue moon of July / Julie Cook / 2015)

This is a tale about dementia, directions, hair and unbelievable clarity.

My dad has never had, in my opinion, a full head of hair.
It was receding and thinning from the day they brought me home from the adoption agency.

I remember when I was young when he’d proudly ask if I liked his hair cut. I’d respond with a big grin that that’s exactly what it was— a, as in single, hair cut.
Somehow he didn’t find the humor in my observation. . .

The past couple of weeks I’ve noted that dad has desperately needed a hair cut.
What hair he has, which mind you isn’t a gracious plenty, has become almost transparent, wispy and strand-like—a bit of an unkept look–as in derelict. It wasn’t helping his appearance that he’d not shaved.

Time and time again Dad has refused to allow me to take him for a hair cut as he simply refuses to leave the house.
Today, that was going to change. . .

The minute I walked in the house yesterday, I told him that we were going for a hair cut, no ifs, ands or buts. . . as in now.
I asked Gloria where the barber was located, thinking I had a vague idea.

As Dad, my aunt and I headed out in search of the barber, I made a left at the red light thinking I knew where were going. . .my first mistake.

“NO,DON’T GO THIS WAY, Dad shouts as if I was driving off a cliff scaring me to death.
“It’s the other way.”
“Really?”
UGH
“Dad, where exactly is this barber. . . I thought it was in the shopping center with the Fresh Market.”
“You go up at the light and turn left and then drive up that parallel road.”

HUH?

First of all, we’re on Roswell Rd–one of the busiest main thoroughfares in Atlanta running north and south through the city, there are millions of lights and intersections and what in the world is running parallel—
“Do you mean Long Island?”
“I don’t know.
Don’t ask me.
I don’t know anything.”

Hummmmm

“Turn at that light.”
Oooookay
“Just go up this road.”
“How far?”
“Far.”
Ugh. . .

Now you need to know that it’s been 30 years or longer since I’ve traversed most of these back roads.
Progress, which I believe is what they call all of this drastic growth and change to the city, all of which now has me painfully scanning for any sort of remembered landmark.
Alarmingly it dawns on me that all my landmarks have been bulldozed.
It is now officially a blind leading the blind sort of quest for the barber.

“Keep going straight, then turn right at the light.”
“Really?”
“Yes”
“Oh I remember that park, that’s where mom played tennis.”
“Yes”
“Go down this road then turn into that shopping center on the right.”
“No, the NEXT entrance”
“Now turn left”
“I SAID LEFT!”
“Okay dad, my God, you’re scared me to death. It’s just the parking lot.”
“It’s up in the little building on the left. . .”

About 20 minutes later we’re back at the house with my very thin, frail, wispy, 87 year old dad looking rather dapper with his fresh cut hair. . .now if only he’d shave. . .

The mind is an amazing thing.
A deeply cavernous 3 pound mass.
The synapsis fire or they don’t.
Memories mix with current events, confusing past with present.
Sequences flow or jumble, starting and stopping.
Faces are recognized or more often than not–there is frustratingly no recognition.
There may be silence or a profession of irrelevant chatter. . .
With what happened 5 minutes prior suddenly forgotten and gone forever
and yet. . .
a backroad path to an obscure little old fashioned barber shop is clear as a bell. . .
Go figure. . .

Sense of scent

“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”

― Patrick Süskind

DSCN8407
(perfume bottles on a silver tray / Julie Cook / 2014)

Opening the door I immediately smelled March.
But this is November, how does one smell March in November?
It was the humid damp warmth mixed with the grey sky.
More mild than cool, more heavy then light.
Not sweetness but rather warm dampness–but not so warm that it was enveloping.

Not long ago, I randomly bought a jar of facial night cream by Lancome. When I first opened the jar, in order to use it, I immediately smelled my grandmother, Nany. Not in that sickeningly sweet grandmother smell that borders on cheap perfume, hair permanents, and medicine, but the smell of sudden nearness. A palpable longing for someone who has been gone for what seems forever.

I am five, standing in her bathroom. I’m at the vanity on the right standing by my cousin as we are readying for bed during a tiny special spend the night party– a grandmother and both of her granddaughters. It was as if I was actually standing in that bathroom as the memory was so strong. Not only did I smell the smells, I even saw the captured moment frozen in time in my mind. The white cabinets, the double sinks. . .

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing in my own bathroom, alone.

On a recent trip to Target, I wandered down the candle aisle. Picking up a candle, I give it a good sniff, I close my eyes as I draw in the warm scent. Immediatley I am transported, as if by magic, to a candle store at the mall near where I grew up. It’s the early 70’s. I’m a young teen who is wandering around the mall as I walk into a new store that sells candles. On a round brown table in the center of the store, I notice a small candle in the shape of a little red convertible VW bug with a blue top, my dad at time had a blue bug. I loved the smell, sweet and light, being drawn to the fact that it was a cute little VW bug– I made the purchase, proudly adding the little candle to the growing eclectic treasures of teenager’s room.

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing on the candle aisle in a Target, alone.

I recently bought a bag of mothballs, not even knowing if they still made those things. I had brought home a box of old papers and what nots form Dad’s. I wanted to preserve what was in the box but there was no telling of the minisucule critters that were already doing damage to the yellowing papers and books.
I thought that when I repacked the “archives” in a new plastic bin, a few moth balls thrown in might ward off any unsuspecting and unseen nibblers.

When I opened the sack of moth balls I was no longer standing in my son’s old room but rather I was crouched in Mimi’s closet, my mom’s mom. Her house, in Atlanta, was built in the early 20’s. It was old and she had a cavernous closet in her bedroom. I was playing hide and seek. Disappearing deep into her closet, pushing past clothes, shoes and boxes, all the way to a back corner, I’m consumed with a smell that to this day reminds me of my grandmother. Dotting the floor, the flat old light brown carpeting, are a myriad of tiny white balls. Moth balls.
Moth balls will always smell like Mimi’s. To most people the smell might repel, to me, it’s Mimi.

When I open my eyes, I’m no longer hiding in a closet at my grandmother’s, but standing in my son’s old room, alone.

It is said that scent is most often considered the greatest of our senses because of it’s exceedingly strong association with memory. The olfactory bulb in the brain, the part of the brain which processes scents, smells, odors, is linked to both the amygdala and the hippocampus, the parts of the brain responsible of both the processing of emotions as well learning.

The smells that we draw into our brain though the nose, which are caught by the olfactory receptors, allow our brain to process and then link the individual smell with those initials smells from childhood, the time we begin in earnest the association of events with smells. Yet researchers have even determined that we are actually exposed to scent while in utero, which is actually when the imprinting, processing and associating of smell with memory begins.

It is often noted, particularly in Catholic teaching, that there exists a “scent of sanctity”
It is a very real and very strong smell or odor of perfume, specifically floral in nature, that emanates from “the saintly” just prior to the time of death or immediately following. It is said that those who have seen or sensed the presence of various saints were first overcome by a powerful scent of “perfume.”

We know that the making of perfume dates back to early Egypt, followed by both Greek and Roman cultures.
The use of perfumes and scented oils was essential to ancient Jewish customs and rituals, in particular the burying of the dead. There is biblical reference of the woman who came to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Jesus. There is the story of the woman, thought to be Mary Magdalene, who had brought a very expensive perfumed oil in which to anoint Jesus. It is a story symbolizing the future anointing of his crucified body yet some believe it symbolizes his bringing the grace of forgiveness into an unforgiving world. This is also one of the few stories which is included in all four gospels.

And so it is, on this March smelling November day, there is indeed a change in the air. Rain is on the way, and with it the cold and the comforting fragrant balm of crackling fires. . . I can smell its presence in the air. As the scent of change swirls about, dancing lightly in the wind, those thoughts and memories of days gone by, gently drift, sweetly woven to the very air which sustains my life, waiting to be brought to the forethought of recall by the simple act of breathing . . .

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task.
2 Corinthians 2: 14-16