when man reaches up towards Heaven…

“Spira, spera.”
(breathe, hope)
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart…

I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…

(Lyrics from Christina Perri A Thousand Years)


(Pieta by Niccola Coustou / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)

Notre Dame—Our Lady of Paris

850 years of–

Christianity
faith
religion
spirituality
mysticism
relics

history
ingenuity
construction
architecture
labor
sacrifice

art
sculpture
poetry
prose
music
colored glass

revolution
desecration
coronations
funerals
burials
weddings

bishops
nuns
confessions
monastics
saints
sinners

humanity
bloodshed
loss
wars
peace
victories

humankind
survival
life
death
breath
hope…

Yet for now, there are too many emotions to express regarding this collective sense
of sorrow, grief and loss.

Our frail and feeble earthly attempts to reach upward to God will each eventually perish
while fading to both ash and dust…

and yet…

Our Heavenly Father’s reach, downward to us his children, will remain for eternity…


(detail of Virgin and Child by Antoine Vassé / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the iron work on the main entrance doorway / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the central portal (central enterance) of Notre Dame Cathedral / The Last Judgment, constructed in 1220/
Julie Cook / 2019)


(vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(South Rose Window / 1260 / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook 2019)


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of flying buttresses and gargoyles / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of bell tower / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2011)


(south view of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / 2011)


(Wesrtern facade of the bell tower entrance Notre Dame Cathedral /Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

“He therefore turned to mankind only with regret.
His cathedral was enough for him.
It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least
did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence.
The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him –
he resembled them too closely for that.
It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at.
The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and
kept watch over him.
He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues
in solitary conversation with it.
If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

pretty much dead middle

“Ignorant people see life as either existence or non-existence,
but wise men see it beyond both existence and non-existence
to something that transcends them both;
this is an observation of the Middle Way.”

Seneca


(Chaple ceiling Museo Delle Cappelle Mediciee ( the De Medici chapel) / Florence, Italy /
Julie Cook / 2018)

For whatever reason, I have always been one who looks up when I go into someplace new.
Especially when traveling and visiting different locations.

When I walk into a massive Cathedral or other historic building…
I have learned that what’s on the ceiling often makes the ceiling more impressive than
what remains at eye level…

And yet so many people miss out as they never bother looking up.

I’ve even been known to look up in elevators wondering why the ceiling is a mirror.


(the elevator to the Luxembourg Parc Hotel in Paris / Julie Cook / 2018)

Early domed temples such as the Roman temple, the Pantheon,
situated in the heart of Rome, whose open oculus continues to capture our imagination,
is an early case in point.

The Pantheon’s opening was not simply left open in order to be some sort of a famous
architectural oddity or simply to allow light to enter into a windowless temple, but was
rather due to the fact that early engineers and builders could not figure out how to actually
enclose such a massive free-standing dome without wooden beam supports..
of which would prevent it from caving in upon itself from the sheer unsupported weight.

Yet the opening was a cool way to follow the sun, follow the time of day,
while watching the rain pour indoors…


(Pantheon oculus / Julie Cook / 2018)

The open niches along the dome’s surface are not only a decorative purpose but rather
work to help solve some of the weight issues.
The decorative openings required less concrete, therefore reducing the weight of the structure.

Yet figuring out how to close the opening was still a conundrum…

That was until the early 1400’s when the artist, designer, and architect Filippo Brunelleschi
was credited with designing the first successful free-standing dome for the Cathedral of Florence,
the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore…
A cathedral that had gone without its roofed dome for over a hundred years as no one could
figure out how to successfully design and execute such a structure without wooden supports.

Services and rainy days did not mix well.


(a viewoncities.com)

Cathedrals and civic buildings all over medieval and gothic Europe have been constructed
with similar massive domes, impressive soaring towers and open barrel vaults complete
with their flying buttresses and ribbed vaults…
impressive engineering feats accomplished by relatively low tech societies.


(vaulted ribbed ceiling of Sainte Suplice, Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2018)


(ribbed vault of Norte Dame Cathedral / Julie Cook / 2018)

Eventually, ceilings would become extensions of their surroundings, lavishly
painted and decorated…
pulling our eyes upward and beyond.


(Chaple ceiling Museo Delle Cappelle Mediciee / Florence, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)


(Both of these images, with one being a detail, are in the Pantheon in Paris/ Julie Cook / 2018)


(Both of these domed ceilings are found in Les Invalides / Paris, France
/Julie Cook / 2018)


(Santa Maria sopra Minerva/ Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)


(St Peter’s, The Vatican / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

I’ll be the first to admit that the better pictures of ceilings are usually the ones when
the photographer is able to stand directly underneath the very center…
much like I managed to do for the first image.

Nice, round, equal and symmetrical.

Most of the other shots are taken at angles due to the inability to get smack dab in the middle.
Therefore they just aren’t as visually appealing and just don’t offer that same sense of
dimensional perspective.

And so whereas the middle seems to be a pretty good spot when wanting to look directly upward
while wanting to take a pretty symmetrical photograph, I’m left wondering about the
middle we’ve seemed to have worked ourselves into in this nation of ours.

We’re nearly smack dab center in this ongoing battle of tug of war.
Or so say our last several years of elections.
With this past week’s elections being not much different.

Contrary to what either side wants, prefers or hopes for…
there were no waves…blue or red.

Deplorables came out in similar numbers as their progressively liberal counterparts.

There were no landslides.

No referendums.

Candidates won not by large margins but in some cases, just by a handful of
just enough extra votes.

Several key elections are still, 3 days after the fact, still up in the air…teetering
like a seesaw swaying toward one then swaying back to the other as the numbers are simply
too close to that 50 / 50 mark.

Recounts and runoffs are more common than not.

Candidates are lawyering up, refusing to concede while others are prematurely claiming
victory.

It’s become a messy situation from sea to shining sea.

We are a divided nation almost right down the middle.
Divided and exceedingly divisive.

Yet as to what this middle is and as to why it seems so hate-filled, I am uncertain…

But what I do know is that we are standing almost divided directly in half.

And whereas equally divided usually means equally weighted and balanced…
that is sadly not our case.

I don’t understand that despite our being divided nearly equally half in half…
there is such a growing divide of vehemence and discord.

Our symmetry is woefully skewed.

And so I think I’ll just continue looking upward.
Setting my sights up above.
Still lifting my view heavenward as the view upward seems much better than what’s
currently here at eye level…

“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the
earth and be an atheist,
but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.”

Abraham Lincoln

sacrifices and selfishness

There is nothing that I shudder at more than the idea of a separation of the Union.
Should such an event ever happen, which I fervently pray God to avert,
from that date I view our liberty gone.”

Andrew Jackson


(The Victory statue in Nashville’s War Memeorial / Julie Cook / 2018)

When one hears the word Nashville, I’m certain that trashy TV shows, country music,
as well as rowdiness is what most likely first comes to mind.

Add to that honky tonks, day drinking, The Grand Ol Opry, party destinations, country stars,
football, hot chicken, Bluebird cafes…yadda yadda…

I’ve visited this city once before, for a business convention, and we stayed close to the
country music hub. It was a short and sweet visit, yet such a visit that I told myself
I’d like to one day come back.
This city seemed to have so much more to offer other than that of her more rowdy reputation.

Plus being a big fan of our 7th president, I wanted to come back to visit his
homeplace just outside of the city.

Fast forward a couple of years…
we made the 4.5-hour trek northward earlier in the week.

On this particular trip, we opted to stay more northerly…
blocks above the crazy honky tonks and debauchery.
In a quieter area just opposite the State Capital.

Because who knew that Nashville was touted as holding the honor of having the Nations’
largest 4th of July Fireworks display?

Who knew that the city would swell with an additional 250,000 folks over the 4th?

Add in those coming for bridal parties…both gals and guys…
along with all those summer vacationers… so what we had anticipated as a fun yet
laid back trip was anything but laid back.

Oh did I mention the heatwave?

108 on July 4th in downtown?

Hotter in Nashville than the 4.5 hours south at our house.
Hotter than Nashville hot chicken.

Who knew?!

Hot, sticky, rowdy, scantily clad bodies adding in their own heat and it’s a wonder
everyone didn’t fall out with heat stroke.

Nashville has done a very nice job of providing a walking friendly and inviting feel to
the particular area of its burgeoning and growing city that we called “home” for 4 days.

We were told, on this last trip, that 95 to 100 new folks move into the city on a daily basis.
That’s why there are 7 massive building projects taking place downtown—
expansive condos, apartments, hotels and massive skyscrapers all with that live,
eat and shop sort of vibe.

But what drew me in on to this trip was not the glitz and rowdiness down on Broadway
but actually, the area leading up to the state’s capital building.

A marble lined promenade leading toward the capital building—a stately building perched
on a dominant promontory allowing for a sense of guardianship over the city she has been
tasked with governing since 1796.

This expansive marble lined avenue that leads up to the capital is known as the city’s
War Memorial…

It is an area that offers a very stately tribute to those Tennesseans who served
and willing gave the ultimate sacrifice for not only their fellow Tennesseans but to their
fellow Americans.

There are memorials to all who those who have served and yet never came home…

I was unable to capture each memorial before the rains began.
But I did get a shot at the Korean memorial

A memorial to those lives lost in submarines that were sunk while defending the North Atlantic and Mediterranian as well as the Pacific waters during WWII

There was a memorial to those having been awarded purple hearts as well as those
law enforcement members and first responders who have also sacrificed the ultimate
offering to their fellow statesmen.

But the most prominent memorial was the statue of Victory offered in memory of those who lost their
lives during the Great War…the Great War that was to end all wars…
World War I.

The statue was the product of a husband and wife duo—
Tennesse native Belle Kinney along with her Austrian born husband,
Leopold F. Scholz.

The massive statue sits within the open-air atrium of the War Memorial building and
was constructed in the late 1920’s shortly following the war.

Yet sadly the memorial has been defaced.

The marble base with words reading
“In memory of the sons of Tennessee who gave their lives in the Great War
1914-1918”
had been defaced with a black sharpie.
Anarchy symbols and derogatory words were scribbled all over the marble.

Graffiti say some, as they simply shrug their shoulders.
Vandalism say others.

Selfishness is what I say.

I thought this while on the same day I visited this War memorial, the Nation watched a woman being
arrested in New Youk for her stunt of attempting to scale the Statue of Liberty.

A protest they say.
Protesting ICE and the issue of immigration.

And is not protest a “right” of Americans argue the masses.?

Yet it was a dangerous protest.
And it was a selfish protest.
And so if there is an endangerment to others, is that then, in turn, more than a protest but
merely selfish attention seeking?

This woman put not only herself at risk but those first responders tasked with
getting her off the fragile copper veneered statue.

Let’s not forget the hundreds of tourists and vacationers who had planned a visit the statue
on the 4th during their trip to New York. A visit they would not be able to make due to the actions
of one selfish woman.

The area had to be shut down and secured for hours as authorities worked to get this woman down.

As I stand staring at a tribute erected to those lives lost 100 years ago in a world war fought in
hopes of ending all such wars, my thoughts turn to our selfish overpaid athletes who think their
kneeling protests to the National Anthem is some sort of brave act.
And I think of the countless supporters who think such protests are perfectly great.

Selfishness is not brave.

It’s easy to act a fool.
It’s easy to be disrespectful.

Bravery comes when one willingly lays down his or her life in hopes of protecting
his / her fellow man.

Those who have served and continue to serve this Nation and her citizens with not only
their time, their expertise, their skills but most importantly their lives,
are the true heroes who deserve our respect.

Be it 200 years ago, 100 years ago or simply last month in which a serviceman or woman
gave their all in order for us to be selfish…is…well…gravely lopsided in terms of worth.

And it is something we each should remember.

And so I am thankful that on this past July 4th,
I had the opportunity to be reminded of just that…that of sacrifices and selfishness.

I’m just saddened seeing that so many of our younger generations just don’t get it.

“I weep for the liberty of my country when I see at this early day of its successful experiment
that corruption has been imputed to many members of the House of Representatives,
and the rights of the people have been bartered for promises of office.”

Andrew Jackson

taking it down to the foundation

Most things can be born with a sense of the presence of God,
and very little can be born without it.

Gavin Ashenden

“The last thing that those of the top of the pyramid want is to see that
pyramid inverted! In a Western world which is increasingly dominated by an
anti-Christ secularism it’s maybe not a bad thing when those in power seek
to silence the church because we are too dangerous!”

David Robertson


(the current condition of my shower / Julie Cook / 2017)

The other day, I wrote a post based on a news feed coming out of England regarding a college within the Oxford University system that had opted to deny an on-campus
Christian organization from participating in a welcoming fair for the incoming
freshman class.

Our friend the good Scottish Pastor David Robertson has weighed in on the same
news story and since he is on that side of the pond,
I thought he might have a better perspective
than I had…so I’ve included the link below allowing you to read his close
and personal perspective.

A Dangerous Church? The Elephant in the Balliol College Freshers Fair

I’ve been known to often quote both David Robertson and Gavin Ashenden,
Christian clerics of vastly different denominations, because each man has a crystal
clear vision of what is ailing not only our world but, even more, what is ailing
our very own Christian faith.

Each man brings a wealth of academic prowess, real world experience and battle tested
war wounds as they each express this plight or ours oh so succinctly.

There are many in the fold who cannot see, or who actually refuse to see, the growing
and even sinister trouble gnawing at our collective Church.
For you see…the now unavoidable decline of Western Civilization,
the growing notion of progressivism, the pandemic of post modernism coupled with denominational infighting are each sounding a death knell….
and the thing is….
nobody is really listening….

Let’s change the subject slightly…..

Twenty years ago when we built our house, my husband acted as contractor.
He had a good many friends in the building business so he solicited their
expertise while overseeing the whole operation.
The only area in this building process that he did not know anyone was in the
department of laying tile.
We had to go off of recommendations…
more or less choosing the lesser of evils as our area,
at the time, did not have a lot of choice as far as tile was concerned.

We saw right off the bat that things were not going to go as we would expect or like.
In fact half way finished we parted ways with the company of which went out of
business shortly thereafter.

Our shower in the master bath has had problems with leaking from the get go.
We’ve patched and patched till we can patch no more. Chiseling out grout,
re-grouting, sealing, re-sealing…at one point water had seeped under the floor into
our closet, buckling the wood floor.
Finally in desperation my husband recently asked a customer of his who
is a long time tile man–asking him to please come look at our quandary
and see what he could do.

The only fix…
tear it all out and start over.

Sigh.

Have you ever had to have a jack hammer in your house?
In your bathroom?
Well we now have.

Once he removed a ledge, he found about two inches of water sitting hidden underneath
the tile floor.
With the water shopvaced out, the jack hammer finished loosening the grout,
tile and thin-set as a nice layer of masonry dust now covered my world.
1800 pounds of debris, tile, wood, tile board and cement was hauled out of the house.

We had put down drop cloths, plastic sheeting, hung barriers against doors…
but the dust has been relentless.

Currently, we’re down to the base studs with several areas of wood having to be
replaced due to water rot.
The plumber is due out Monday, then soon the re-tiling can begin.

Twenty years of slow leaks, standing water with no way of evaporation,
and I just might have ended up in the basement, while showering,
dropping through a rotten floor.

I relay this little tale of woe because it reminds me very much of what we are
witnessing in the collective Christian Church.

Things started out solid and sure.
There was a strong base and foundation built literally with the blood, sweat and
even the very lives of the faithful.

But over time, really unbeknownst to the obvious, things began to creep in and
erode what was there.
Power, fame, ego, pride, corruption, translation disputes, schisms and heresies…
add to that the army of the unbelieving who are led by our ancient Adversary,
as they work to weedle away at what remains…

All while we’ve ignored the signs.

We’ve missed the growing mold, the erosions, the leaks….
The facade still looks ok but underneath is now barely supporting itself.

It’s time to strip things down to the very foundation…
and in order to do that, we need those who are willing to do the dirty hard work.
Otherwise what you’ve taken for granted is going to implode upon itself..
leaving you standing in an unfamiliar place wondering what the heck just happened.

…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus
himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined
together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which
God lives by his Spirit.

Ephesians 2:20-22

measuring

The measure of a life,
after all,
is not its duration,
but its donation.

Corrie Ten Boom

rscn4795
(everything is so early this year—blooming cherry trees and the visiting honey bees/
Julie Cook / 2017)

We are a measuring people…
we just seem to love to measure…
It’s as if we’ve been measuring ever since the dawn of Creation.

We measure everything….
space,
time,
distance,
amounts,
gains,
averages,
percentages,
odds,
growth…

Just as we measure…
decline,
decrease,
failure,
depletion,
shrinkage,
loss,
and demise…

We measure both life and death…as well as the distance separating the two.

This whole concept of numbers, benchmarks, averages and time seems to be of the
utmost importance to us.
Measuring allows us the satisfaction of knowing if we’ve actually been successful,
having accomplished a certain task, goal or desire.
It also gives us some sense, some idea, as to how far we still need to go in order to
reach a set goal, desire or postion.

Measuring and its results makes us feel in control.

And it is certainly paramount when considering such endeavors such as construction,
tailoring, manufacturing, producing, building, mending…
It is in such that both precision and measurement walk hand in hand.
Meaning… we can’t have one without the other.
Anything other then precise leads to skewed, crooked, awkward, flawed
as well as imperfection…
as we’ve learned to equate measurement with both precision and perfection…
as well as with safety.

Yet no matter how precise we try to be, no matter how perfect, how accurate…
we continue making mistakes.
And our mistakes can have catastrophic results…
leaving us not in the place we prefer…
that of being knowledgable and in control…
but rather…
we find ourselves as helpless victims of our own failures and errors.
Wishing to hide, lest anyone know it was upon our mistake of flawed measuring
which resulted in disaster….

Yet we simply, and often flippantly, chalk that up to human nature…
for we are indeed an imperfect lot…
despite our best attempts to measure…along with precision, perfection,
accuracy and control…
we misread, mismeasure and miscalculate…

Yet in our busyness of measuring, we have become accustomed to measuring
not only the abstract…
but we are very comfortable measuring ourselves…
We measure our self worth and our sense of well being…
With our benchmark being anything and everyone other than ourselves…

We constantly gauge our level of satisfaction by how others measure up to us and
how we measure up to others…

Are we happier than…
Are we more successful than…
Are we better off than…
Are we more financially secure than…
Are we healthier than…
Are we prettier than…
Are we thinner than…
Are we younger looking than…
Are we more comfortable than…
Are we further along than…
Are we more popular than…

Our question must therefore remain…what is it that we measure?
And what shall we be measured by…

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,
but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,
in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Romans 12:3

‘You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity.
‘You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin;
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:35-36
(ephah: a Hebrew dry measurement / hin: a Hebrew liquid measurement)

Construction in progress…

The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this:
that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed;
but a thing created is loved before it exists.

Charles Dickens

work-in-progress-danger-sign-s-6313
(image borrowed from the web)

construction-progress-3
(image borrowed from the web)

Throughout history, man’s idea of advancement has been a familiar sequence…
conquest,
conquer,
construct.

Always higher, always taller, always farther and always wider.

And as it becomes passé and outdated,
the sequence begins again…

Reclaim,
Destruct,
Reconstruct…

Always higher, always taller, always farther and always wider….

A continuing cycle of:
claim, up, down…
reclaim, down, up…

God has a very different approach….

Give
Offer
Love
Hope
Life

bartolome-esteban-murillo-paintings_456040
(Nativity / Bartolome Esteban Murillo / Adoration of the Shepherds 1657

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

What lies beneath

The proud depend upon the world to tell them whether they have value or not. Their self-esteem is determined by where they are judged to be on the ladders of worldly success. They feel worthwhile as individuals if the numbers beneath them in achievement, talent, beauty, or intellect are large enough.
Ezra Taft Benson

Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.
Victor Hugo

DSCN0112
(a blending melange of colors in an Alaskan stream as the salmon move up stream / Gregory Cook / 2015)

What lies beneath, underneath, below. . .
supporting you,
lifting you,
holding you. . . ?

Is it firm and sound
or
shifting and sinking?

Any builder or architect worth their salts knows that before building, be it home or skyscraper, a solid foundation must first be set, poured or laid—
Pylons are driven down to bedrock and footings are poured for anchoring. . .
everything that goes up, must first be sound underneath.

Life rocks along. . .everything is as it should be, relatively perfect.
Happy,
flowing,
carefree. . .

We ride the waves of mediocracy hoping always to rise upward, never ever downward,
chasing the proverbial dream. . .
Then one day, out of the blue, catastrophe strikes. . .
Our world is rocked to its core.

We either fold or we hold on. . .
Survival determined by. . .
what lies beneath. . .

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.
Isaiah 28:16