Content

Prayer is the beginning and the end, the source and the fruit,
the core and the content, the basis and the goal of all peacemaking.

Henri Nouwen


(hidden color / Julie Cook / 2017)

“Where sin abounded, there did Grace more abound.
(Rom 5:20)
Resting in that promise,
I am content”

Dorothy Day

the collision of life and dying….

“I believe O God,
help thou my unbelief….”

Dorothy Day


(Julie Cook / 2017)

I still have a great deal that I want to share about the last two weeks that Dad and I spent
together….however the time is just not yet ripe…

Too much is now pressing and weighing in as I still find myself having to journey
back and forth…albeit not every single day…
taking care of business that is now snowballing faster then I care for….

Yet despite these larger than life looming worries found in the act of both dying and death,
I continue wading through the musings and thoughts of Dorothy Day…
And how timely it is that I should stumble upon her own reflections of her time spent
by the bedside of her dying mom…

“It almost seems that one is absorbed in a struggle, a fearful, grim, physical struggle,
to breathe, to swallow, to live.
And so, I kept thinking to myself, how necessary it is
for one of their loved ones to be beside them, to pray for them,
to offer up prayers for them unceasingly,
as well as to do all this little offices once can…

In reading Dorothy’s own words of the interaction she had with the last
moments of her mother’s life,
I was taken by the similar thoughts that I held as I kept my vigil with Dad…

I found myself actually timing his breaths….
and when I didn’t think he’d taken a breath as I thought he should,
I stared with an almost laser intent vision at his chest checking to see I could
still see the heart beating through his now thin body and translucent skin.

I watched him laboring to swallow as his eyes, now cloudy and glazed, would roll back
then vainly attempt to focus on the sound of a nearby voice…
Muscles involuntarily twitching as the toxins overtook what oxygen remained in the blood.

All the while the unrelenting conversations with God continued unabated.

I was keenly aware, as I sat in the stillness of his room, of the mysterious,
yet rocketing forces of both life and death…hurdling at a ferocious and devastating speed…
colliding simultaneously into one another….with dad smack in the middle…

It was, it is, a struggle between both life and death.
A most fierce tug-o-war…
All the while a scared and mystical transition of power was actually taking place.

Our natural earthly instinct is to fight….
just as in birth we are implored to breathe..
In death we fight for the very last breath…
for we do not, will not, go peacefully from this realm of which we have grown so accustomed….

And yet, when the final moment does come for us to relinquish…our very beings…
as it always does…for there is no choice when that time does indeed come….
there is a tremendous release…
as if a heavy sigh is expelled after completing some sort of most strenuous physical task..
something so demanding and so arduous…
that when it is finally finished, a resulting sense of both exhaustion and
satisfaction ensues…

That feeling of being totally spent yet simultaneously feeling totally content…

And so it is the Psalmist who so sweetly, yet so aptly, expresses the
true underlying yearning found in the center of that life ending and life beginning
seismic collision….

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

(Psalm 42:1-2)

status quo

“One day everything will be well,
that is our hope.
Everything’s fine today,
that is our illusion”

Voltaire

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(Edward Collier’s Letter Rack / 1698 / Oil on Canvas /Art Gallery of South Australia)

There are good days…
Days such as Christmas when things like Snoopy and Woodstock flannel sheets,
along with a handmade Georgia Tech teddy bear is all it takes to make
one happy and content.

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(dad and his grandson on Christmas day / Julie Cook / 2016)

There are bad days…
Days when the weight and heaviness of reality is coupled by the
frustratingly helplessness of a losing battle of body …

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(dad on a bad day / Julie Cook / 2016)

And yet the turning of the calendar page always brings renewed hopefulness.
A new year,
a new day,
a new month,
a new hope…

The hospice nurse told us yesterday that things with Dad are status quo…
could be worse, could be better, and yet he’s holding his own–so far this day…
On another day, perhaps tomorrow, something else may come our way, something different…
but as for today, we will take “status quo”

Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain.
I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.

Psalm 3:2-6

3 minutes ’til

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(old wall clock in the Jameson Distillery, Midleton, Co Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The Doomsday Clock

A metaphorical clock created in 1947 by a group of scientists who all had a hand in creating the nuclear bomb.

A clock whose hands, when set at midnight, would signify the almost certain and impending demise of all mankind.

Interesting that those who helped to create “the bomb”… the very thing touted as being the be all to end all wars…in turn create a clock marking the end of mankind….hummmmm

The clock is currently set at three minutes ’til midnight.
The only other time, during its 69 year existence that the clock edged closer to the ominous midnight hour was in 1953 when it was set at 2 minutes ’til midnight.

What pray tell, one may ask, could ever be a determining criteria to the fretful moving of the two hands ever closer to or further from the dreaded bewitching midnight hour?

Well the obvious threat would be that of nuclear war or the use of nuclear weapons somewhere across the globe….
think Iran, North Korea, China, Pakistan, Israel, India, Russia, the US, ISIS….you get the picture.

Global economic stability…or lack thereof…think IMF, stock markets, world banking, black markets, recessions, depressions….

The precarious health of the environment….think global warming, global cooling, locusts, plagues, floods, erosion, pollution….

Seeing any or all of the latest headlines ringing round the world and you can get some sort of idea to the scope of “criteria” as to what makes the doomsday hands tick closer to the proverbial pumpkin turning, glass slipper seeking, fairytale stroke of midnight turned reality tale type of harbinger of cataclysmic death and destruction.

Yet I’m not really certain as to why we need a group of world renowned scientists, nobel prize winners and leaders in all things academic amassed together in some sort of board room or labortory telling us we’re almost ready to implode. One look at the news and anybody with any sense can plainly see the alarmingly rapidly increasing impending demise of mankind splattered across every news outlet from Sydney to Katmandu, from Spokane, to Liverpool, from Tibilsi to…..you get the idea.

It all reminds me of those homemade beacons of foreboding doom stuck in the ground along wayward roadsides declaring to one and all… “REPENT! THE END IS NEAR”

And yet, I’ve not noticed a run on the churches…
You know, like when the weathermen start predicting an impending storm and suddenly all of humanity descends upon every grocery store within the bullseye of the storm in order to snatch up every loaf of bread and every gallon of milk as if those two things alone are the only things that can sustain us throughout the duration of hunkering down and battening down the hatches…

One might imagine that when the rallying cry of doom is sounded by those in the know, the average citizen would feel as if he or she may want to get serious with that whole getting right with one’s God concept, as in the time has come….filling the local pews to the brim as everyone jockeys for position while seeking the saving grace before the you know what hits the fan….

Or maybe not…

Maybe everyone is just so jaded, so gloom and doomed out…so hardened of heart…
as in over it…
as in sick and tired of thinking about the dreaded end…
merely preferring to think that destruction and mayhem are either over rated or merely part of the inevitable and that there’s just not avoiding the inevitable.
I actually think one of the networks has a new show, a black comedy, coming out focusing on the very concept of living life in the wake of “the end”….

At any rate, I found the story as well as the fact that the BBC found it necessary to report that the hands are somewhat stuck…as in they aren’t moving, most interesting. It’s three minutes ’til and that seems to be it for now…no moving backwards or forwards—and depending on one’s outlook, maybe that’s a good thing…at least we’re not moving forward, with maybe a chance to go backwards…

However, given the precarious global situation I don’t think backwards is going to be an option anytime soon.
And whereas man may need reminding every once in a while that he’s sitting on the brink of total annihilation, I am reminded of many a biblical passage which addresses this rather interesting position we’ve gotten ourselves into….

…And yet, I am not running about like Henny Penny proclaiming that the sky is falling…rather I am resting in the peace of the knowledge that no matter what may or may not blow at this supposed midnight hour, my life rests in the blood of the lamb, in the saving Grace of the One True Resurrected Savior of Jesus Christ.
Come what may, I am His and He is mine—
and there is a great deal of contentment found in that one small fact…

Here’s a link to the story…
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35412454

Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 54:10

Hello Goodbye

You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello
Hello hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello

(Hello Goodbye-The Beatles)

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

― Alfred Lord Tennyson

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(fresh flowers for sale, Grafton St / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I wish you flowers.
I wish you blue skies
I wish you sun
I wish you warmth upon your face
I wish you peace of heart and peace of mind
I wish you health
I wish you joy
I wish you contentment
I wish you happiness
I wish you love
I wish you God’s Grace until the end of time….

I arise today
Through a mighty strength:
God’s power to guide me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s eyes to watch over me;
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to give me speech,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to shelter me,
God’s host to secure me.

St Bridgid of Gael

Pests and pleasantries

It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.
Epicurus

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(dangling sweet gums balls / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(a tent caterpillar / Julie Cook /2015)

Busying myself with yard work a few days back, I rounded a corner of the house when I spied
this fuzzy little stripped fellow clinging to the brick.
Suddenly I was 8 years old again. . .

Spying the first caterpillar of the season, or it could have been the first lightening bug,
I made a mad dash inside frantically searching for a jar.
And since I couldn’t find any empty jars sitting around, I scoured the cabinets and the refrigerator.
Begging my mother to scoop out all of the mayonnaise from the jar that was sitting in the fridge, as I was in desperate need of that particular jar as it was the perfect size you know, just big enough to reach one’s 8 year old hand down into in order to place the necessary sticks and straw. . .
I could never understand my mother’s overt reluctance to give up the jar.
How hard could it be to scoop out the mayonnaise putting it in a bowl??

I needed it washed and dried.
I would then need the icepick.
“What?” I can still hear my mom shriek followed by a resounding “NO.”
Much to my mother’s fears. . .did she not understand that
I had to poke holes in the top of the jar.. .
Even caterpillars, or fireflies, needed to breathe, I thought everyone knew that.

My collected caterpillars, much to my chagrin, never turned into butterflies.
How was I suppose to know that these guys were not of the butterfly variety?!
Sadly I was attempting to raise moths.
And not the beautiful lunar month mind you but more like a devastating pest.
For my caterpillar was known as a Tent Caterpillar.

Tent caterpillars.
Have you ever seen a tree with a mass of white webbing covering large sections of limbs?
As in, there are hundreds of these ravenous critters inside that white gauze,
waiting to come out as moths. . .yet it is the caterpillar who is very hungry. . .
as in no leaf is safe. You know, as in everything you’d prefer to keep in tact and whole,
gets consumed by hundreds of creepy crawlies.

While way up high, nearly touching the sky
resides the sweet gum ball.
Currently a brilliant light green ball which dangles, like a thousand little earrings, from the branches of the tree.
As time passes, come the Fall of the year, these tender green balls turn spiny and brown, falling to the ground.

A sweet gum tree can grow as tall as 100 feet and is a most hardy and prolific tree.
It is a rapid grower and actually possesses a rather pleasant sweet aroma discovered
upon crushing a few leaves between one’s fingers.
And. . .it is a favorite tree of the tent caterpillar.

Eradication means cutting the wrapped up limbs and disposing of them before it’s too late.
The caterpillars are also very dangerous to horses who graze in areas where tent caterpillars roam.
Mares who consume tent caterpillars are likely to become infertile and pregnant mares are at great risk for losing folds.
Who knew?!

The happenstance of seeing this single caterpillar immediately transported me to a different time and place. . .a place full of wonderment and joy. I wasn’t thinking that I was gazing upon a pest who needed to be immediately disposed of before he and his thousands of minions, wherever they may be, devoured a tree. . .

Rather I was back at a certain place and time relishing the simple pleasures of life. It was a time when Nature, with all that she had to offer to an 8 year old child, was something to be savored and enjoyed.
For it was through the lens of a child that I looked upon this current-day pest—
I was seeing it not as a ravenous creepy crawly but as the fond recollection of youth.
Happily, for that brief moment in time while busily working in the yard, upon this momentary encounter, all that came flooding back in that single moment was a warming sense of contentment as happiness washed over me like welcoming wave on a hot summer’s day.

Here’s to childhood, caterpillars and the joy of Spring. . .

contentment

Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.

― Lao Tzu

“Satiety depends not at all on how much we eat, but on how we eat. It’s the same with happiness, the very same…happiness doesn’t depend on how many external blessings we have snatched from life. It depends only on our attitude toward them. There’s a saying about it in the Taoist ethic: ‘Whoever is capable of contentment will always be satisfied.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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(Percy and Peaches enjoying life / Julie Cook / 2014-14)

Where is
your comfort
your peace
your happy place. . .

“Come to me my beloved. . .
My outstretched arms are longing waiting, aching, hoping to embrace you. . .
to hold you, to comfort you, to protect you, to warm you. . .
In my arms you may let go. . .
You may let go of all your worries, your excess, your burdens.
I want you to fall freely into my arms where you can finally exhale and rest. . .
Where you may finally find peace, warmth and contentment. . .
I am here my beloved, waiting. . .
Waiting for when you are ready. . .
Ready to let go of those things which separate us, which separate both you and I, keeping us apart. . .I am here, waiting, to offer you my warmth, my heart, my love. . .”