O mortal

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


(a blue heron caught trapsing through the woods on a my husband’s trail cam / 2020)

When I read my ‘daily verse’ Friday morning,
a new verse for each new day that I receive each morning,
I read Friday’s verse, over my phone, early while still rather bleary-eyed.
BAM
it was like being stung by a hornet from out of the blue.
An electric shock ran through my entire being.
I simply put my phone down…staying silent for quite some time, stung by
what I had just read.

O mortal.
What does the Lord require of you?

Talk about a wave of real humility washing over me.
And that’s when it hit me.

We are each, indeed, mere mortals.
And we are here to do the work of The Creator…
not the work of man…

And so when have you heard that on the news..

We are the created, not the Creator.

How do I behave toward my neighbor?
How toward my brothers?
If I except a single one, it is not Jesus Christ I consider in them.
If I love them, it is merely so that I may be liked and considered,
or because their character suits mine. Let us each one see Jesus Christ in his neighbor.

St. Claude de la Colombière
from The Spiritual Direction of Claude de la Colombière

not exactly the Mother’s day you may have wanted…

“Be a Mother who is committed to loving her children into standing on higher ground
than the environment surrounding them.
Mothers are endowed with a love that is unlike any other love on the face of the earth.”

Marjorie Hinckley


(the styling and profiling Mayor / Julie Cook / 2020)


(The ever smiling Sheriff / Julie Cook / 2020)

What does a Pandemic Mother’s day look like?

Well, I’m not certain.

I wasn’t certain what a Pandemic St. Partick’s day would look like.
Nor what a locked-down Pandemic Easter would look like.

I didn’t know what a 1st birthday would look like as we hunkered down inside…
Nor did I know what a festive Cinco de Mayo would be from home.

What I do know, however, is that we celebrated together none the less.
We lived through and did the best we could with what we had
and with what we could do…making the most of the simple and reserved.

And now I suppose this Mother’s Day will be much the same.

We will miss those who are not with us to celebrate just as we will mourn those who
have gone on ahead of us.
We will grieve for those who now grieve and rejoice with those who rejoice.

It has not been easy on you living here these past two and half months…
away from your own home, your comfort and familiarity, as well as that of
your own complete little family.

Yet we’ve each done the best we could do.

And so, on this Pandemic Mother’s Day,
I want to thank you for allowing me to share your children.

I want to thank you for allowing me to share in the day to day caregiving
and responsibility.
You have been gracious in allowing me to be that now missing and yet extra parent.

There are only three people in my life who I am related to by blood—
and you and I share those three people.

One of those three I have shared with you while you in turn have shared two with me…

And so I thank you for that.

Long ago, one of my own mother’s favorite folks was Erma Bombeck.

She was that folksy, common sense female author and journalist so endeared by
“the commmon woman.”
She was a woman who didn’t need hashtag movements, protests, marches or amendments to know that,
as a woman, she could and would make a difference in the lives of others…all the while, doing
so with a deeply rich and delicious humor.

She was self-deprecating in the best sense of the word.
She knew how to laugh at herself as she invited others to laugh as well.

At that particular time in our culture, Erma Bombeck was the sole spokeswoman
for the most underappreciated being on the planet…that being the mom…
and in particular, the stay at home mom.

My mom was a stay at home mom.

An often lonely and mostly underappreciated role.

She was a woman who did not have extra money like those of her working friends.
She was a woman who didn’t have fancy clothes or a nice car, or a super nice house.
She was a simple woman who probably would have enjoyed being complicated.
A woman who knew how to make $50 dollars a month feed a family of four
while sewing clothes for school.

A woman who knew what it meant to hurt and suffer as one of her children
battled mental illness.
A woman who bore cancer, and its eventual loss of life, without nary a complaint.

And so I share with you a tale by Erma Bombeck—a piece
about when God created mothers—-something my mom certainly understood
and something I think you may already understand.

Happy Mother’s Day to my daughter-in-law…

“When God Created Mothers”

When the Good Lord was creating mothers,
He was into His sixth day of “overtime” when the angel appeared and said.
“You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.”

And God said, “Have you read the specs on this order?”
She has to be completely washable, but not plastic.
Have 180 moveable parts…all replaceable.
Run on black coffee and leftovers.
Have a lap that disappears when she stands up.
A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair.
And six pairs of hands.”

The angel shook her head slowly and said.
“Six pairs of hands….no way.”

It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” God remarked,
“it’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”

That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel.
God nodded.

One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks,
‘What are you kids doing in there?’ when she already knows.
Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t but what she has to know,
and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say,
‘I understand and I love you’ without so much as uttering a word.”

God,” said the angel touching his sleeve gently,
“Get some rest tomorrow….”

I can’t,” said God, “I’m so close to creating something so close to myself.
Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick…
can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger…
and can get a nine year old to stand under a shower.”

The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. “It’s too soft,” she sighed.

But tough!” said God excitedly.
“You can imagine what this mother can do or endure.”

Can it think?”

Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek.

There’s a leak,” she pronounced.
“I told You that You were trying to put too much into this model.”

It’s not a leak,” said the Lord,
“It’s a tear.”

What’s it for?”

It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride.”

You are a genius, ” said the angel.

Somberly, God said,
“I didn’t put it there.”

― Erma Bombeck, When God Created Mothers

enough people…enough is enough

It is not enough for us to restrain from doing evil,
unless we shall also do good.

St. Jerome


(Kayla Mueller before being kidnapped by ISIS)


(Kayla in ISIS captivity)

In February of 2015, 4 long years ago, I wrote two posts about the abducted American
aid worker Kayla Mueller.

I wrote about her again in 2016 when her ISIS abductors finally killed her.

You can say what you want.

You can say that she was foolish for going into such a volatile area.
You can blame what happened to her on her own choice and actions.
You can blame President Trump…becuase you always blame President Trump.
Because don’t we blame President Trump on all our ills?

But President Trump was not president when Kayla was abducted.

President Trump was not president when ISIS emailed Kayla’s parents demanding a ransom.

President Trump was not president when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi personally tortured
and raped Kayla over and over again.

Put yourself in the shoes of Kayla’s parents, her brother, her grandparents.

What and how would you feel knowing your daughter was being so utterly abused
and your own government was not there for you and you were helpless to stop the days,
the weeks and the months of her cruel abuse?

How could you live as a loving parent?
How could you sleep at night knowing your daughter was in constant harm?
This was your child…your baby girl and you were helpless to rescue her.

How could you go on day in and day out, knowing your beautiful, loving and selfless
daughter/granddaughter/sister was being tortured and repeatedly raped by a man of
pure evil because she was the American aid worker in the lot?
The other kidnapped workers all noted that it was Kayla who took the brunt of the
torture and rape because she was an American and they were not.

And so now you’re saying that I’m simply basing my words on emotion.
I’m playing on emotions…

And you’re right, I am.

Why?

Because it is emotional.

It is emotional because a young woman who went to help take care of displaced children
was, in turn, kidnapped, tortured, raped and killed…all because she was an American.

The man who personally took pleasure in her mutilation and sexual abuse was,
this past weekend, trapped in a tunnel…hemmed in by American troops and so in turn,
did what any coward would do, he blew himself up rather than being captured.

Only a coward tortures a young girl and uses her for his twisted sexual pleasures.
Only a coward blows himself up.

Hitler blew his brains out.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi blew himself up.

The man who took sadistic pleasure from abusing a young American girl cowardly
blew himself up…just like a man who called for the deaths of countless men, woman, and children
because they were Jews, or Catholics or handicapped, hid in a bunker and blew his brains out.

Evil seems to always self implode when it is cornered.

So Americans should perhaps feel some sense of justification in the news that another
member of evil’s clan is gone.

And yet Congress is up in arms because they didn’t know about the covert military operation.
A ballpark booed a President, chanting “lock him up” …
The Speaker of the House announces that she will call for an impeachment vote this week.

However, in all of this upside-down madness, there are two grieving parents who have thanked
that very same president for finally bringing some sense of justice to the
cruel treatment of their daughter.

No one can bring back their daughter
No one can give back the sense of innocence their daughter once possessed and in turn
lost at the hands of evil.

But at least these two tormented parents now know that someone in the leadership
of their government, our government, remembered their daughter…
someone acknowledged their neverending nightmare and has worked to bring those
responsible to justice.

This is what I wrote back in 2015:
“Kayla had gone to Syria, working with the humanitarian organization Hayata Destek,
Support To Life, in order to help the refugee orphaned children in Syria whose lives
had been displaced and shattered by the ongoing fighting.
Kayla conducted art therapy projects with the kids,
as children can often express themselves in drawings when words cannot be found.
She noted that when the children asked her” where was her world”
–then telling them, they asked why had her people not come to help them…
her response was simply to cry along with and for the children.

This is what I wrote in 2016:

Tuesday night, after having spent much of the day glued to the news and having grieved
along with Kayla’s family, having noted that she was the same age as my son,
having wrestled with the position of the United States in such matters as hostages and war,
I found myself settling in for the evening reading over the Bonhoeffer book that
I have previously mentioned…of my meditating On The Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
translated by David McI. Gracie.

The evenings reading was based on Psalm 34:19
A Sermon on the Suffering of the Righteous
It was a meditation that Bonhoeffer had actually written down and mailed to his dear friend
Eberhard Bethge while Bonhoeffer was a prisoner in Tegel Prison near Berlin—the
first of three different prisons before his subsequent execution.
Bonhoeffer had already been held by the Nazi’s for over a year,
his future uncertain. He had just become engaged prior to his arrest,
and with it now being over a year away from those he loved, the confinement was
wearing on his soul.

Once again, as the created and not being the Creator,
there are those events in life that we simply will never truly understand no matter
how hard we try. We can write them off as this or that,
we can grow bitter and cold or simply empty and numb but there are those moments
when we will find ourselves at a loss for words, a loss of understanding.
It will be there, in the midst of the suffering and sorrow, that we will meet God. . .

I want to offer the following excerpt of the meditation as I find its
subject most timely and most enlightening…
(the translator has chosen to mix up the use of the feminine and masculine pronoun)

Psalm 34:19
The righteous person must suffer many things;
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

1 Peter 3:9
Repay not evil with evil or railing with railing,
but rather bless, and know that you are called to this,
so that you should inherit the blessing.

The righteous person suffers in this world in a way that the unrighteous
person does not.
The righteous person suffers because of many things that for others
seem only natural and unavoidable.
The righteous person suffers because of unrighteousness,
because of the senselessness and absurdity of events in the world.
She suffers because of the destruction of the divine order of marriage and the family.
She suffers not only because it means privation for her,
but because she recognizes something ungodly in it.

The world says: that is how it is, always will be, and must be.
The righteous person says: It ought not to be so; it is against God.
This is how one recognizes the righteous person, by her suffering in just this way.
She brings, as it were, the sensorium of God into the world;
hence, she suffers as God suffers in this world.
“But the Lord delivers him.”

God’s deliverance is not to be found in every experience of human suffering.
But in the suffering of the righteous God’s hope is always there,
because he (the righteous person) is suffering with God.
God is always present with him. The righteous person knows that God allows him to suffer so,
in order that he may learn to love God for God’s own sake.
In suffering, the righteous person finds God. That is his deliverance.
Find God in your separation and you will find deliverance!
The answer of the righteous person to the sufferings that the world causes
her is to bless.

That was the answer of God to the world that nailed Christ to the cross: blessing.
God does repay like with like, and neither should the righteous person.
No condemning, no railing, but blessing.

The world would have no hope if this were not so.
The world lives and has its future by means of the blessing of God and of
the righteous person.
Blessing means laying one’s hands upon something and saying:
You belong to God in spite of all. It is in this way that we respond to the world
that causes us such suffering. We do not forsake it, cast it out,
despise or condemn it. Instead, we recall it to God, we give it hope,
we lay our hands upon it and say: God’s blessing come to you;
may God renew you; be blessed, you dear God-created world,
for you belong to your creator and redeemer.
We have received God’s blessing in our happiness and in our suffering.
And whoever has been blessed herself cannot help but pass this blessing on to the next one;
yes, wherever she is, she must be herself a blessing.
The renewal of the world, which seems so impossible,
becomes possible in the blessing of God.
As Jesus ascended to heaven, “he lifted up his hands and blessed” his followers.
We hear him speak to us in this hour: “The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Amen

So enough!

Enough of this stupidy that is tearing our nation apart.
Enough of the ignorance and stupidity.

The problem is not President Trump.

Our trouble goes much deeper than that of a single man.
No single man can cause so much divisiveness.

329 million people, give or take a few, cannot be toppled by one single man.
So there is something else going on.

But you’re too proud, to selfish to see it any other way.

It’s time you get over yourself.
Your paranoia.
Your false accusations.
Your inflammatory reactionary foolishness.

It’s time we get back to being a unified United States…because if we don’t…
it will indeed be too late.

Stop to think about the grieving families who have lost loved ones to terrorism…
But you can’t because you’re too busy complaining and blaming a man who really
wasn’t on the scene when this craziness began.

May our prayers and support remain with families like the Muellers.
And all those who we have buried because of terrorism.
Terrorism that was ramping up long before President Trump was president.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/song-for-the-innocents/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/innocence-and-sorrow/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/02/06/onward-christian-soldier/

honey and locust… or would that be grasshoppers?

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth;
and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word,
to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God,
men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

Pope St. John Paul II


(a locust passing by / Julie Cook / 2015)

Sometimes I just think it would be best if I found some hollowed-out tree, ditched
all the trappings of this life and opted to survive off of honey and locust.

Think John the Baptist.

The voice of the one crying out in the wilderness.
The man who lived in the desert eating only honey and locust while preaching about the
repentance of man…

So in my case, maybe we should make those grasshoppers because grasshoppers are more prevalent
in my neck of the woods.
But if the truth be told, I could easily do honey all day long, grasshoppers, however,
are things that I’m just not so certain about.

But this little reflection is not about eating bugs or living in
a hollowed-out tree—
but rather this post is about ridding oneself of all the trappings of a distracting world.

Giving to God all that I am and all that I have…which is simply me and me alone.

Because isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?
What we’re supposed to be about?

So maybe this IS a post about living in a hollowed-out tree, or in a cave or in a hut
or in the desert…

It’s about giving all and crying out.

It’s much like having a St. Francis moment.

Stripping down naked in the town square, tossing off all the fine clothing given
by one’s well to do parent and opting instead to offer the only thing one truly has that
is his or her own…that being one’s unclad naked self.


(St. Francis’ renunciation of worldly things / Giotto /1295 /Bascillica of San Francesco Assisi, Italy)

Yet Life gets complicated.

Our culture and society have both grown caustically complicated.

We can get so caught up in the minutia of living.
We tend to worry about things that are totally trivial in the grand scope of what is
truly worthy of concern…

We fret over silly little things like matching appliances, buying name brand purses, shoes, and cars.
We want a house in that oh so special neighborhood while putting our kids in the best of the best schools…
We live on our phones, on Facebook, on twitter on Instagram…
We have become the masters of making nothingness into life-altering concerns and thoughts.

The proverbial mountain verses the molehill.

Throw in the daily constant fixation with our toxic political sludge…
and well, we are all living a life of perpetual distraction— and if the truth be told,
it is a life of heaviness and negativity.

What then do we have left to give God?
What remains?

Maybe having a St. Francis moment is in order for us all.
Throwing off the trappings of this world and giving to God what it is at the heart of the matter—
that being ourselves and ourselves alone…
ourselves with nothing covering us or allowing us to hide behind…no distractions.

Just us.

Just us making Him our focus..the focus of what truly only matters.
Because in the end…nothing else in this world does matter…
Everything and everyone will eventually die and or pass away.

So only Him and us…

Creator and created…

“We live in a fallen world.
We must, therefore, work out our destiny under the conditions created by sin.
Did we but realize this truth, we would accept each of life’s trying changes in the same spirit
in which we accept the penance from the confessor.
Were we truly convinced that our hope of pardon, and consequently our salvation,
depends upon repentance, we would willingly undergo all the sufferings of life’s warfare.”

John A. Kane, p. 81
An Excerpt From
How to Make a Good Confession

Lobsters, tears, steroids, redos—the tale of distraction

“The life of the body is the soul;
the life of the soul is God.”

St. Anthony of Padua


(Saint-Sulpice, Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

I don’t cry…often.

Well, there are some commercials that can get me to shed a tear or two.

The Toyota commercial that ran during Christmas with the mom
going off the bring her husband home while the son was busy enlisting the
help of all his friends in the neighborhood to make a row
of snowmen, lining the road up to their house, all saluting his returning veteran dad…

The camera pans to the dad who sees the saluting snowmen.
The mom pulls into the driveway where the snowmen are saluting alongside a saluting son.
The dad gets out of the car, stops to salute his son before engulfing him in his arms…

See…
tears as I type.

That is the kind of commercial that “gets me”

Other than that, I’m pretty stoic.

I cry usually when I am totally and utterly exasperated or when I’m really really sick.

Let us recall my little predicament from last week.

Last week I had a root canal that went awry….not away but awry.

Over the weekend, the endodontist called in a different antibiotic after the
original prescription appeared not to be working.

Clindamycin.

I took the first pill Saturday.
That evening after showering, I noticed I was itching on my abdomen and noticed a
red blotchiness.
Hummmm.

I took the next dose right before bed.

By morning’s first light, I looked like a freshly boiled lobster being pulled hot from the pot.

From head to toe, front to back… I was a giant red itchy rash.
And my root canal tooth…well it was throbbing so badly that I started scouring
the house for a pair of pliers.

We went to breakfast with our son and daughter-n-law and the Mayor.
I didn’t feel much like eating but I’ll never miss being with the Mayor.
My face was red as a beet but given our location, my daughter-n-law slyly noted
folks will just think you’ve had a facial peel.

Calls to the endodontist, the clindamycin was quickly discontinued.
Up the Motrin, use the pain meds, and get some Benadryl to counter the drug reaction.

I don’t usually take Benadryl but I took one and then dozed off during the
poor play calling against the Saints.

Which from what I hear was best.

I tried writing my post for the following day but it was as if I had been drugged…
I couldn’t type out one word without it being a mishmash of letters.

I dozed some more.

My daughter-n-law text asking how I felt.
I sent back a scathing text of woe…but somehow I sent it to the endodontist instead of my
daughter-n-law…

Oooops

Profuse apologies followed but at least he understood, in no uncertain terms,
that I was in a bad way.

I dozed again.

The Saints lost, the Patriots won, I was red, itching and had a throbbing head.
Sunday was tough.

So back to the notion of crying.

This morning I felt so bad, I had had so many meds that were meant to help…
feeling so so bad such that I almost passed out, twice.

I fell onto the bed and broke down in tears.
Tears of frustration and hurting, tears of feeling bad and tears of knowing
how busy our lives are soon to be while thinking that I need to be 100%.

Typical mom thinking.

My husband is not used to this.

I am the little rock.
I am the chief caregiver.
I am the take charge and ‘it’s time to get rolling’ member of the family.

And so…he did what most husbands do when given such a predicament, he panicked.

“We’re going to the ER” he exclaimed.

Yet his better option appeared to simply pace the floor back and forth in front of me—
which in turn was making me a nervous wreck.

Crying and husbands, a true difficulty.

I told him I’d just call the doctor when the office opened.

I called both my doctor and then the endodontist.

My doctor could see me at 10:45
The other at 2 PM

When the nurse called me back, with one look, she said what we always say down here
in the South when things are bad…
“Bless your heart”

The doctor walked in…”Oh my gosh!! Bless your heart!!! You ARE a red mess!”

I could only muster a feeble “help me…”

She countered with a resounding “You need a good slug of steroids.”

She proceeded with two shots–steroids and B-12— as my B-12 levels were way low
according to last week’s labs.
Then there was a prescription for oral steroids.

Next, it was off to the endodontist’s office.

He proceeded to do a redo root canal.
Working basically backward…undoing what he did then
redoing it all over again.

As I type, the novocaine is still lingering.
The throbbing remains at bay.
The steroids have kicked in.
The red is slowly dissipating as the itching is lessening.
There is indeed a small ray of sunshine…

No, literally the sun is shining… we haven’t seen it in a while.
So that’s a good thing.

But this tale is really just a tale of distraction.
A distraction from the pressing matters that need addressing.

Issues like some young boys from a Catholic school who have become the
latest fodder for all things social media and wrongful reporting.

Issues like the obvious hypnotizing from the new Marxist left of the general populace.

Issues like showing any support for the current sitting president equating to hate.

Issues like a fetus being considered not a human being.

Issues like the billboard that I recently caught while buzzing down the interstate at warp speed
that read:
“IN THE BEGINNING, GOD CREATED.
(Call xxx-xxx-xxxx for more information)

But that’s it right?
That’s the bottom line.

God Created.

End of sentence.

And so now the question remains, what shall we do with the stewardship we have been
given over that creating?

That is the real question and the real issue…

So as soon as things clear up on this end, we’ll get back to what’s really the issue at hand.

God Created.

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

1 Colossians 1:16

The Creator

“To argue that God is “trying His best” to save all mankind,
but that the majority of men will not let Him save them,
is to insist that the will of the Creator is impotent,
and that the will of the creature is omnipotent.”

Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God


(Le Mont-Saint-Michel / Normandy, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Now, may our God be our hope.
He Who made all things is better than all things.
He Who made all beautiful things is more beautiful than all of them.
He Who made all mighty things is more mighty than all of them.
He Who made all great things is greater than all of them.
Learn to love the Creator in His creature, and the maker in what He has made.”

Saint Augustine, p. 136
An Excerpt From
Augustine Day by Day


(a view of the “chruch on the rock” at low tide / Julie Cook / 2018)

looking for saints in all kinds of places

This is the very perfection of a man,
to find out his own imperfections.

St. Augustine


(St. Augustine of Hippo painting by Philippe de Champaigne, 1650)

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise;
your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning.
And so we humans, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you –
we who carry our mortality about with us,
carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud.
Yet these humans, due part of your creation as they are, still do long to
praise you.
You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy,
because you have made us and drawn us to yourself,
and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

The passage above appears to have been written by a person who was painfully aware
of his own mortality and sins yet yearns, nay longs,
to be in the arms of the Beloved Creator.

And so perhaps it might be hard for those of us reading these long ago penned words
to imagine that this person was not always so deeply attuned to
living life worshiping the Triune God.

For the past couple of days, my posts have veered toward the idea of saints.
No particular reason really…and when there seems to be no real rhyme nor reason for my
ramblings, that usually just means the Holy Spirit is at work and not so much
me.

Yesterday’s post offered two quotes summing up the notion of sainthood quite nicely…
yet it was especially the Kierkegaard quote which serves to remind us that God’s mastery
of creation is one thing, but to be able to make saints from sinners…
well, that’s something else altogether.

Augustine of Hippo…
a giant when it comes to thought and theory has been studied down through the ages by
all sorts of students—from theologians and philosophers to literates and historians…
many of whom have been Believers and many who have not.

Yet Augustine was not always one of Christendom’s most learned and revered theologian
turned saint.

According to Wikipedia,
“His first insight into the nature of sin occurred when he and a number of friends stole
fruit they did not want from a neighborhood garden.
He tells this story in his autobiography, The Confessions.
He remembers that he did not steal the fruit because he was hungry,
but because “it was not permitted.”
His very nature, he says, was flawed.
‘It was foul, and I loved it.
I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself.”
From this incident, he concluded the human person is naturally inclined to sin
and in need of the grace of Christ.”

Augustine went on to have a long-lasting affair with a woman who bore him an
illegitimate son.
He later broke off that relationship in order to marry a 10-year-old heiress but had to wait
two years until she was of legal marrying age.
During his wait, he took up with another concubine.

Yet the time came in which Augustine abandoned all concubines and fiancees alike
lamenting“that he was not a lover of wedlock so much as a slave of lust”

Eventually, at the age of 31, Augustine broke off all his relationships with these
various women because he, like many before and after him, had his Road to Damascus moment.
He was struck from his lofty, self-absorbed, carnal way of living by the
One True Omnipotent God who literally called out to him..

As Augustine later shared
“his conversion was prompted by a childlike voice he heard telling him to
“take up and read” (Latin: tolle, lege), which he took as a divine command to open the Bible
and read the first thing he saw.

Augustine read from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans –
the “Transformation of Believers” section, consisting of chapters 12 to 15 –
wherein Paul outlines how the Gospel transforms believers,
and the believers’ resulting behaviour.
The specific part to which Augustine opened his Bible was Romans chapter 13,
verses 13 and 14, to wit:

“Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness,
not in strife and envying,
but put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

It was at this moment that his life turned.

Augustine eventually penned an autobiography of sorts which many of us,
trained in the classics were at some point, required to read— Confessions.

It is from the pages of his Confessions that we read these beautiful and deeply
haunting words:

Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold,
Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.
Thou wast with me when I was not with Thee.
Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness.
Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispel my blindness.
Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.
For Thyself Thou hast made us,
And restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease.
Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new.

And thus what we have learned is that many of those who are known to us today as saints
seem to have, at some point or other figured things out.

Namely, that life isn’t all about them.

But life, rather, is a yearning…and that yearning is the created’s longing to be
one with the Creator.

Some seem to understand this better than others.

Many have been rogues and scallywags.
Some have been liars and drunkards.
Some have been rich and arrogant.
Some started out as cowards and turncoats yet became brave and true.
And some will simply be known only to God and God alone.

And so with all this talk about saints and sinners, I am struck by a current circus of sorts.

Brett Kavanaugh, the latest Supreme Court nominee, has been in the center of a maelstrom.

I don’t know much about him, but from what legal experts and judges on ‘both sides of the
aisle’ have said, he is a stellar wealth of legal prowess.
A fair and just man who is deeply knowledgeable with regards to right and wrong.

Yet his experience, his record, his knowledge, his examples don’t seem to matter to
this pack of hearing committee members who are foaming at the mouth,
as they rip into this man for the simple reason that they hate the man who nominated him.

Desperate Democrats are grasping at ugly straws to do their darndest to stop this nominee’s
chance of confirmation…even resorting to highschool hearsay.

And in so doing…these very politicians who so vehemently cling to the separation of
Church and State and find themselves cringing over the notion that their precious
Roe v Wade would be overturned… these worshipers of all things cultural and secular
now seem to be seeking a saint…a saint who doesn’t exist.
As all of this is just one more example of the irony of man standing at odds with
his blinding self-serving pride.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micha 6:8

fusion

“To join two things together there must be nothing between them or
there cannot be a perfect fusion.
Now realize that this is how God wants our soul to be,
without any selfish love of ourselves or of others in between,
just as God loves us without anything in between.”

St. Catherine of Siena


(image from the Passion of the Christ)

The word fusion, according to Merriam Webster, is defined as a union by or as if by melting:
such as a: a merging of diverse, distinct, or separate elements into a unified whole

A merging of diverse, distinct, separate elements—
Merging…as in combining, blending, joining together… a union…
the binding of two pieces in order to become one.

That is what God desires…a fusion of created to Creator.

But this is actually more of a re-union…a re-joining of two who were long ago separated…
for, in the beginning, there was a union… but with man having chosen to defy the Creator…
the union was torn asunder.

Yet as St Catherine of Siena reminds us, God longs to be reunited…He longs for the two to
be fused back together…

However, for the fusion to hold, there can be nothing which exists in between…
there must be nothing.

Not the thinnest, smallest, tiniest or slightest separation…
not any passion, nor desire, nor want…nothing that we think we simply must have
can exist because if it does, we remain separate and not one.

And so as we read below an excerpt from the Catholic Catechism…
whether we be Catholic or not, we read that it is by Christ’s passion…
his sacrifice, his willingness to offer himself in place of our own damned fate
that we are able to be reunited.
He has fused himself to us as we are re-united in “his redemptive Passion.”
As He joins the Father, we in turn re-join the Father…

“Often Jesus asks the sick to believe.
He makes use of signs to heal: spittle and the laying on of hands, mud and washing.
The sick try to touch him, ‘for power came forth from him and healed them all’.
And so in the sacraments Christ continues to ‘touch’ us in order to heal us.
Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick,
but he makes their miseries his own:
‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases’.
But he did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God.
They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover.
On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and
took away the ‘sin of the world’, of which illness is only a consequence.
By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering:
it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion.”

Excerpt from the Catechism of the Catholic Chruch, pp.1504-05

berries, cherries and bears, oh my

“Haven’t you ever thought of living
unconsciously like bears, sniffing the earth,
close to pears and the mossy dark,
far from human voices and fire?

Nâzım Hikmet Ran


(a mama bear and her cub perch high in the wild cherry trees / Julie Cook / Cades Cove, TN / 2018)

Some folks would say it’s the sign of an impending cold winter…
What with the numbers of bears we’ve seen in just a two-day span, gorging themselves
on berries and apparently the prolific wild cherries that grow plentiful in the
Smokey Mountains.

Twelve bears and counting.

An amazing feat really given that we’ve been coming to this area on and off now for 35
years and have seen maybe a total of 5 bears over the course of that time—
and those were just at a glance here or there.

Today we ran into 5 more bears with one almost literally running into me.
We were actually walking through a field along the woodline, walking away from one of
the few remaining original cabins in Cades Cove when my husband turned to say something to me
yet he could only muster that single word again, BEAR!!

I turned just in time to see a small black bear right behind me before he kindly bolted
into the woods.

Next, as we were exiting out of the cove we saw a mom and cub perched high in the wild
cherry trees enjoying a late brunch.

Then later in the evening, on one final drive through the cove,
we came upon another young bear eating fast and furiously…


(all bears seen in Cades Cove / Julie Cook / 2018)

Not knowing when I’ll make it back this way, as it’s been about 5 years since our last trip,
I savor these moments.
Breathing in deeply, holding it as long as possible before slowly exhaling.

These snippets, these glimpses of things that are truly greater than our hurly-burly
hectic ant-like lives…
lives spent hurrying here and there as we always seem oh so preoccupied and
tremendously busy…I consider these moments, these gifts of time, one of the
greatest privileges offered.

Being able to see animals in their natural habitat, in a place that is stopped in time,
doing what they do best…simply living and being the wild animals that they are…
is a gift…a gift offered by the Creator to one of the created…

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him
and for him.

Colossians 1:16

incommunicado or detached by forgetfulness

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

St. Josemaria Escriva


(Lily Tomlin from the One ringy dingy skit from Laugh-In)

Once upon a time, human beings came into this world with 4 appendages.
At some point in the latter part of the 20th century, human beings added an appendage…
the cell phone.

This new appendage became attached serendipitously.
It seemed to bring a sense of well-being and even wholeness to most.

It became so indispensable, so oddly necessary, that when there would be some sort
of separation, human beings would go into apoplexy.

For you see, we humans can’t seem to part with this relatively new appendage.

I confess that I’m sadly and equally guilty of living in this surreal false sense of need.

Take for example today.

My husband and I were in Atlanta babysitting, even having spent Wednesday night as
we all went out a few days early to celebrate my husband’s upcoming birthday.
A birthday that my husband has decided will be his last to actually recognize but
a first in that we had a new little granddaughter in attendance at dinner.

The following day, Thursday…there was a pouring monsoon. Due to our daughter-n-law
starting pre-planning with her new school system and having to attend a faculty retreat
and our son having to work late, we opted to take the wee one home with us for a few days.

Maybe not a wise decision as the wee one is teething, but I digress.

As we were packing up, our daughter-n-law called making certain all was well.
Mindlessly I handed my son the phone.
After a brief conversation, he put down my phone.
We all then worked a joint effort in order to get the wee one in the car
without getting soaked.

With great trepidation, we bid our son a farewell (but I’ll be heading back Saturday to redeliver
the wee one home) as we made our way to the interstate for the long wet drive home.

Driving on the interstate in the pouring down rain, sandwiched between
tractor-trailer trucks who were oblivious to the weather or other cars or
that of their own speed, I saw an interstate road sign flashing deep
within the foggy rainy misty air…
DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE

For you see, Georgia just passed a law forbidding the use of a cell phone
while driving.
A few too many lost lives too late yet long overdue.

This means no calling, dialing, talking or texting.
Bluetooth through the car is ok.
GPS is also ok…so there are still a few of those grey areas but this is finally
a step in the right direction.

But when I saw that flashing interstate sign working its magic in the pouring down rain,
I thought to myself…”cellphone???”
As in… where IS my cellphone?

I quickly ask my husband to reach to the back seat to check my purse.
“Nope” he annoyingly replies.
For you see he figured I’d probably have done a U-turn right then and there on this
precarious section of 285 sending tractor-trailer trucks scurrying for cover.

But I didn’t.

I calmly kept driving.

I didn’t even frantically make my way to the nearest exit in order to backtrack to our
son’s house because I now remembered that the phone was sitting on the coffee table.
Right where my son had put it down after finishing talking to his wife…
all while we were putting the wee one in her car seat.

So I’m now missing an appendage.

A friend later called on our fossilized landline when word got out I didn’t have
my phone.
“Oh my gosh…what are you going to do??!!” was her incredulous query.

“I’ll get it on Saturday when I take the wee one home” I nonchalantly replied.

So on this day without my extra appendage…I do feel small moments of panic forcing
themselves up to the surface as I involuntarily reach for something that is not there.
I wonder who has text me.
Who has tried calling me?
I can’t track my Fitbit steps.
I can’t readily look up some unnecessary thing as if my life depended on it.

And to be quite honest…it’s all rather liberating.

Maybe if we felt the same way about our relationship with our loving Father and
blessed Savior as much as we feel about our phones…
maybe our lives would right themselves back upright…upright as they should be.
I think it’s a matter of priorities and living in the moment really and not living
in some another moment of some other dimension of both space and time—that being
the dimension of the life on those phones of ours.

What a small piece of joy…as well as freedom…

What else are we allowing to vie for our attentions?
What else is distracting us from our true nature of created of the Creator?

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Colossians 3:2