mystery

“Love is an endless mystery, because there is no reasonable cause that could explain it.”
Rabindranath Tagore

(Moses by Michelangelo / Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli /Rome / Julie Cook 2018)

“A sculptor who wishes to carve a figure out of a block uses his chisel,
first cutting away great chunks of marble, then smaller pieces,
until he finally reaches a point where only a brush of hand is needed
to reveal the figure. In the same way, the soul has to undergo
tremendous mortifications at first, and then more refined detachments,
until finally its Divine image is revealed.
Because mortification is recognized as a practice of death,
there is fittingly inscribed on the tomb of Duns Scotus**, Bis Mortus; Semel Sepultus
(twice died, but buried only once).
When we die to something, something comes alive within us.
If we die to self, charity comes alive;
if we die to pride, service comes alive;
if we die to lust, reverence for personality comes alive;
if we die to anger, love comes alive.”

Fulton J. Sheen, p. 219
An Excerpt From
Peace of Soul
(**John Duns OFM, commonly called Duns Scotus, was a Scottish Catholic priest
and Franciscan friar, university professor, philosopher, and theologian.
He is one of the three most important philosopher-theologians of
Western Europe in the High Middle Ages, together with
Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham. Wikipedia)

So the other day I posted one of my more short and sweet offerings…
When time is scarce, I rely on a good picture and a couple,
of what I think to be, pointed quotes.
Most often the quotes offered are by the Saints, Christian theologians,
Christian authors and or Christian mystics.

And so it was on a recent day when I posted a quote by C. S. Lewis:
“In the old days, when there was less education and discussion,
perhaps it was possible to get on with a very few simple ideas about God.
But it is not so now. Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed.
Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology,
that will not mean that you have no ideas about God.
It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones—bad,
muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God
which are trotted out as novelties today are simply
the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected.”

C. S. Lewis, p. 155
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

that I received the following comment:

“In the old days, when there was less education and discussion,”

This was true in regards to both theological and knowledge of everything
but I believe that is the only part the great writer Lewis got
right in this quote.

Theology has not changed, the stories and traditions are basically
exactly the same today but likely more complicated than when they
were created but the general knowledge of our world has
increased dramatically.

We have the massive advancement in both scientific knowledge
and increased educational opportunities that have accumulated mostly
over the last two hundred years, this has cost all religions dearly
in a decline of power especially in first world industrialised countries.

As there is now more freedom of thought there are answers
that explain what we experience in the light of reality without
any supernatural input.

Well, I’ve not had a chance to respond to this particular commenter but
thought I could maybe take a little time now in order to do so…

The picture above is a marble statue carved using the famed Carrara marble
of Carrara, Italy. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrara_marble)

The statue was carved by the famed Italian artist Michelangelo…
a statue of Moses that was to adorn the one-day tomb of Pope Julius II.

Pope Julius and Michelangelo had quite the love-hate relationship.
It was this same Pope that sent his guards to bring back the
run-away artist who tried to skip out on his Sistine Chapel project…
but I digress.

Isn’t this just an amazing piece of craftsmanship?
Do you see the veins and tendons in the muscular arm of Moses?


(Julie Cook / 2018)


(Julie Cook 2018)

When I was in Girl Scouts, we were given a bar of soap and were to use our
trusty Girl Scout knife in order to carve something out of the soap.

Despite my grandiose hopes of carving out a bear, I think I managed to
have a whittled pile of soap shavings.

So to be able to see something in a massive chunk of rock and to then,
with only hands, hammer and chisel–with no modern electric or technological
assistance in order to bring forth “life” is, to me, simply amazing.

It is a gift.
Not a rote learned skill…
Now whereas it does indeed take skill to be such a craftsman,
it also takes much more.
It takes vision…seeing that which lies within…
And it also takes something that borders upon the mystical.

Life breathed into a handful of dust….

So our friend’s comment today speaks of both knowledge and understanding.
Noting that each one has more or less come steamrolling in within the
last 200 some odd years…but I dare say it all really took off during
the day’s of Michelangelo…the age of the Renaissance…
and by gosh, it hasn’t dared stop to look back.
Think the Age of Reason…the Age of Enlightenment…
The Industrial Revolution…Post Modernism, Post Christianity…

Whereas we greatly pride our 21st century selves on our breadth,
depth and scope of knowledge…there are, contrary to popular belief,
a few truths that remain…despite man’s dire
attempts to counter it all with his / her hubris and arrogance.

“Supernatural input” our friend notes.

Yet, despite the argument that we are so advanced and now know
all there is to know, there actually remain certain truths…

Take Biology for instance…
I would think Biology is one said truth.

Male.
Female.
Egg.
Sperm.
Conception.
Birth.
Life.
Death.

And yet, therein lies the mystery.

Conception / birth / life / death…

Sure there are miscues and misfires.

There are anomalies.
There are exceptions
There are mysteries.

But that does not diminish the truth.

Male.
Female.
Conception.
Birth.
Life.
Death.

Our friend speaks of a “freedom of thought giving way to answers that explain
what we experience in light of our reality…”

Hummmm.

Thought does not necessarily equate to reality…does it?

This particular individual speaks of the supernatural no longer being necessary…
but if it is “super” as well as natural…then is that not a mystery in itself?
That which remains rooted in that of the unknown?

And so as I consider today’s quote by Archbishop Fulton Sheen,
I marvel.
Our lives are not so readily written off as compartmentalized
reason now are they?

“When we die to something, something comes alive within us.
If we die to self, charity comes alive;
if we die to pride, service comes alive;
if we die to lust, reverence for personality comes alive;
if we die to anger, love comes alive…”

Put your heart aside

“Put your heart aside.
Duty comes first.
But when fulfilling your duty, put your heart into it.
It helps.”

St. Josemaria Escriva


(a summer evening at a beach / Julie Cook / 20210

“In the old days, when there was less education and discussion,
perhaps it was possible to get on with a very few simple ideas about God.
But it is not so now. Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed.
Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology,
that will not mean that you have no ideas about God.
It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones—bad,
muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God
which are trotted out as novelties today are simply
the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected.”

C. S. Lewis, p. 155
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

My heart shall become your heart (a re-post)

****I read a marvelous post yesterday over on Mel Wild’s site, In My Father’s House.
Here’s a link to the post:
https://melwild.wordpress.com/2021/06/29/compassion-more-than-all-our-doing/

Mel spoke about compassion—the compassion of Christ…
In his post, Mel examined the latest episode of The Chosen…the same episode
I had also discussed earlier in the week regarding Mary’s falling backwards…

As the storyline played out, we saw how Mary felt that Jesus would
never give her a second chance, not after she turned away from Him and that initial healing.
How could He?
He’d healed her once and here she’d turned away from that healing
and fell back into her old familiar and damaging ways.

But in that encounter between Savior and sinner, we see a deep
and unending compassion.

That touched a deep chord with me.

Falling and failing, over and over…
and yet we are only met, time and time again, with three simple words.
“I forgive you”

Here is a post I offered back in 2014.
7 years have passed…much has happened in my life
and in the life of our country in those past 7 years.

Yet the same need and desire remains….

“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time,
so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work.
I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!!
I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman,
but to KILL IT! No half measures will do.
I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there;
rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me,
the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams.
Turn them ALL over to me,
give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image.
Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself.
My will, shall become your will.
My heart, shall become your heart.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


(Orchid / Julie Cook / 2014)

Oh that this strong request of yours could only be answered with a swift response of “yes.”
That I could and would whole heartedly shout at the top of my lungs
YES!!
YES!
I will give you myself.
All of myself.
I shall hold nothing back.
I am yours.
Yes, take all of me.

Yet, this demand of yours, this most intimate demand from the purest essence of Love,
is meet by my hesitation, my doubts, my frozen in time inability to immediately scream “yes.”
I hesitate.
Why?
I stumble over the words.
I hold back.

You reassure me.
You make me a promise
You have proven the promise.
And yet, I balk.
The “I” must be broken
Why can’t I let go?
Why won’t the “I” let go?
Am I afraid of being broken?
Being broken by you would be so much better than remaining whole as the captive of “I”
Still I find the words unable to slip from my mouth.

You sense my hesitation.
You see my reluctance.
You take my hand.
Suddenly, within that single touch, there is a cosmic explosion which shakes the very foundation of my world.
At the very moment you touch me, there is something so overpowering, something so beautiful which takes places.
I have never felt this before.
A connection
A oneness
It’s as if the brokeness, which I never fully comprehended, is immediately made whole.

And just as quickly as our hands meet, I pull away.
I look away.
It’s all too much.
I can’t.
If you honestly knew, knew everything, you’d walk away
You should walk away.
Others are better than I.
Others have not done the things I have done.
The things I am ashamed for you to discover.
You really don’t want me.
You really don’t know me
You really don’t know. . .

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not,
for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.
Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.

(Isaiah 43:1-28)

The love song plays out,
You reveal everything I’ve hidden.
I am ashamed and want to turn away.
Yet you continue watching.
There is only acceptance in your eyes.
Pieces of a broken heart lay scattered on the floor.
You pick up the pieces, putting them back together,
handing me the final piece.

Again, You extend your hand.
You whisper my name.
“My heart shall become your heart” you whisper ever so gently–
“You will be mine and I will be yours” for all of eternity
Love lies bare and open between us.
“Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful!
(Song of Solomon 4:1)
I hear those words flowing from your heart.
A heart that has broken for me.
“Yes”
“Yes”
The word now slowly falling from my mouth.
Take me as I am and make me yours.
All that was is suddenly no more.
I will give you my heart…
I want nothing more than for my heart to now become your heart…
as the last piece of the puzzle is finally put back in place.

something beyond

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary.
To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

St. Thomas Aquinas


(a sunflower head prepares to give up its seeds / Julie Cook / 2021)

“I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity
seems at first to be all about morality,
all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue,
yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond.
One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things…
Every one there is filled full with what we should call goodness
as a mirror is filled with light.”

C.S. Lewis, p. 149
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

The Spirit of God rather than your own…

“Do not be anxious: go straight on, forgetful of self,
letting the spirit of God act instead of your own.”

St. Julie Billiart


(magnolia /Julie Cook / 2021)


(soon to be sunflower/ Julie Cook / 2021)

“As St. Paul points out, Christ never meant that we were to
remain children in intelligence: on the contrary.
He told us to be not only ‘as harmless as doves’,
but also ‘as wise as serpents’.
He wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head.
He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate,
and teachable, as good children are;
but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job,
and in first-class fighting trim.”

C.S. Lewis, p. 77
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

it about broke my heat

Through prayer you will receive the strength to resist the
spirit of the world.
You will receive the power to show compassion to every human being—just
as Jesus did. Through prayer you will have a part in salvation history
as it unfolds in your generation.
St. Pope John Paul II


( a three legged doe / Julie Cook / 2021)

Driving along a lonely back road in an eastern Georgia National park,
we weren’t really surprised to suddenly spy a deer meandering down a bank…
ready to cross the road in front of our car…
But the problem was that this deer was not exactly meandering.

The deer was oddly and slowly coming down the bank.
There was something odd about her gait.
Struggling with each step…up, down, nearly collapsing,
up down, nearly collapsing…and that’s when we saw the reason
for the odd cadence of walking.

She did not have a left front leg.
The leg was missing clear up to her torso.

This deer had two hind legs and only a single front right leg.
We pretty much figured that she had either been shot in the left leg
or perhaps hit by a car…
she had lost the leg and yet she managed to survive.

Naturally we stopped the car, allowing her to slowly navigate
crossing the road.
By the time she hobbled up and down across the road, she simply stopped…
resting, while taking the opportunity to nibble
on some nice green grass.
I think she knew we’d respectfully wait on her.

Her ribs rippled underneath her sagging skin,
but we know this is the season that deer tend to be
the most lean.
She seemed to be keeping her own.

I wanted to take a picture and yet, I didn’t.
I wanted to respect her dignity along with her struggle.
I was slow to get the camera, capturing her only after she had
traveled across the road and was already headed back up the opposite bank.

So far, she’s managed to defy the odds.
Be that for good or bad.

Crippled yet persevering.
Hanging in and on despite the odds being stacked heavily against her.
A wild animal, who depends upon running and jumping in order to avoid
predators while managing on only three legs, is not high with the
odd makers.

And yet, here she was.

Believer…be encouraged!
Broken and wounded, yet we are still here.

We persevere just as He persevered before us for us…

Odds are not in our favor yet Hope always prevails.

“On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to
think about than our love for Him.
Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could,
feelings are not what God principally cares about.
Christian Love, either towards God or towards man,
is an affair of the will.
If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment,
‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.’
He will give us feelings of love if He pleases.
We cannot create them for ourselves,
and we must not demand them as a right.
But the great thing to remember is that,
though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not.
It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and,
therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination
that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us,
at whatever cost to Him.”

C. S. Lewis, p. 132
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

old made new

The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become –
because He made us.
He invented us.
He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be…
It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality,
that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”

C.S. Lewis


(a green chameleon perches amongst the shrubs / Julie Cook / 2021)

At our previous home, we always had a small menagerie of critters that
called our home and yard, their home and yard…

This new house is no different–it’s just that some of the residents are,
well, different.

A post regarding these new residents will be a post for another day….
for today’s thoughts come from my having spotted a chameleon who was
in the process of literally losing his or her skin—
sloughing off the old for the new.


(a chameleon shedding / Julie Cook / 2021)

Maybe I knew this little fact about lizards shedding…
maybe I’d forgotten…
I certainly knew it about snakes and cicadas shedding…
but I’d never given much thoughts about lizards doing the same.

We have a group of skinks and chameleons who call our back patio theirs.
As in they were here before us.

The chameleons gravitate from green to brown depending on their
whims…or more aptly…depending on where they opt to traverse or
spend their time.. be it on the furniture or in the bushes.

Amazing how God gave such creatures the gift of change depending
upon their circumstance.

So imagine my surprise, or more aptly my shock, when I went to sit down
on a chair situated on the patio, and suddenly spied two chameleons chasing
one another on the chair…with one of the two looking pretty rough.
As in a bad hair, or make that skin, day,

Upon closer inspection, I realized the smaller of the two lizards was
shedding its winter coat, readying itself for a glorious spring and summer.
As well as hoping to look its best in order to snag a would be mate.

I think we humans feel much the same following our winter
hibernations…especially this year…
This past year having been a full length marathon hibernation…
Meaning it’s past time to let go of the old and become fresh and new.

I really like Mr. Lewis’s thoughts offered at the start of this post–
the thought that God invented all the different persons we are to become
throughout our lifetime–both good and bad actually.

I’ve never quite thought of it like that before.

Life without knowing our true nature as a child of God can
leave us quite dull and heavy.
And so as we advance in our relationship with the triune God,
we shed and shed….we shed off our old worn-out selves
as each shedding gives way to a newer creature…
allowing us to become lighter and much more fresh.

The shedding isn’t pretty to watch and is rather uncomfortable
to endure— think itchy and irritating and even perhaps
somewhat embarrassing…but the shedding, as unsightly as it is,
is necessary none the less.

And so during each season of our lives, as we gravitate to and closer
to our oneness with the One who gave Himself up on our behalf—
our God, Creator and Savior has seen us both before and after each of these
sloughing-off of layers.
Always loving us before, during and after we emerge into
our true and intended likeness of God’s original intention
for us, His created…

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live,
but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh
I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

focus…

“There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading
a human’s mind against the Enemy.
He wants men to be concerned with what they do;
our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.”

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters


(reputation today)

We live in a time without any sense of true focus.

Rather, our culture focuses on the rabbit holes and not the obvious.

Our leaders continue to cross their roles, their lines and thus, our lives.

May God have Mercy…

No one can see God without falling in love with Him,
and no one can meet a saint without meeting God in him or her.
That is the good news: that in a world dedicated to the will to power,
there is no power greater than that of sanctity;
and that in a world dedicated to the pursuit of selfish pleasure,
there is no pleasure greater than that of unselfish love of God and man.
No one can ignore or refute the joy of a saint.

Peter Kreeft
from his book How to Destroy Western Civilization

for those who do not know or have forgotten—living forever

“I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus
to those who do not know Him or have forgotten Him.”

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini


(The Mayor’s big reveal / Brenton Cook / 2021)

“Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever,
and this must be either true or false.
Now there are a good many things which would not be worth bothering about
if I were going to live only seventy years, but which I had better bother about
very seriously if I am going to live for ever.”

C.S. Lewis, p. 74
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

****we’re off to the Mayor’s for her big party this weekend…you know how it is to turn 3??!!!

give my your Light

“Everything becomes more and more itself.
Here is joy that cannot be shaken.
Our light can swallow up your darkness;
but your darkness cannot now infect our light.”

C.S. Lewis


(they take the bulbs and shades…so life is in the dark / Julie Cook / 2020)

Transition seems to bring about a variance of both light and dark.
I can have a lamp, but without a bulb or electricity, I have only darkness.

The same remains true for the soul.
If there is no light, there is only darkness.

We pray for light.
Give us you light oh Lord…

“In me there is darkness,
But with You there is light;
I am lonely, but You do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with You there is help;
I am restless, but with You there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with You there is patience;
I do not understand Your ways,
But You know the way for me.”

“Lord Jesus Christ,
You were poor
And in distress, a captive and forsaken as I am.
You know all man’s troubles;
You abide with me
When all men fail me;
You remember and seek me;
It is Your will that I should know You
And turn to You.
Lord, I hear Your call and follow;
Help me.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer