“you may be an undigested bit of beef…..”

“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese,
a fragment of underdone potato.
There’s more of gravy than of grave about you,
whatever you are!”

Charles Dickens / Scrooge in a Christmas Carol

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(Alastair Sim as Scrooge in a 1951 adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol)

An undigested bit of beef, a piece of moldy cheese…
a sour stomach due to indigestion…

Indigestion, that’s it!!

Or maybe a migraine…
or a change in weather…
or the dropping barometric pressure…
perhaps a change in season…

Any explanation other than the truth…

The truth of the nagging encounter.

The encounter that is meant to turn you around.
Bringing you to your knees,
opening your eyes,
but more importantly, turning your heart.

Oh say what we will about the character of the man Dickens…
One thing is certain, his stories spoke deeply of the condition of the heart of man.

How long will we try to rationalize our encounters, our moments,
when the Spirit meets us in mid journey, as something other than indigestion
or a coincidence, or something other than…
the Divine…

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;
and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 26:36

I marvel

“When we try to pick out anything by itself,
we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

John Muir

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(medical chart of the human nervous system)

Sitting in the Orthopedic’s examining room, my eyes immediately gravitated to
one of those medical illustrations charts of the spine hanging a bit skewed on the
wall opposite of my gaze.

As a former art teacher, I always take notice of those medical charts in whatever
doctor’s office I may find myself.
I had several students who ventured into the field of medical illustration.
A fascinating field for those who are gifted artistically and love attention
to detail.

We had our own life-size skeletal model in the classroom, along with a vast array of animal skulls and bones…all of which were featured in many a student’s masterpiece.

So with this time I found on my hands as I sat in that little room with its skewed spinal illustration,
as I waited between x-rays and exam, my mind naturally went to wandering….

Perhaps we should be reminded that all living beings are made up of systems…

With there being 11 recognized systems within the human body:

The skeletal system
The nervous system
The circulatory system
The respiratory system
The digestive system
The excretory system
The endocrine system
The immune system
The muscular system
The reproductive system
The integumentary system

The intricacies within these systems…of how they work in tandem and
make a living being just that, living…
is nothing short of miraculous.

Detail and the mastery of placement, per each function,
is beyond comprehension.

As the pain in my hip and leg continued vying for my weary attention,
my thoughts marveled at the way the full nervous systems,
which is currently giving me fits, operates.

With the very image, such as the picture above,
being nothing less than a roadmap of life,
such is the visual imagery of the very act of living,
along with all of its intertwined responses…is simply amazing

Most of these systems go unnoticed and greatly under appreciated…
that is until there’s a problem

Ask any couple desperately trying to conceive a child and they can
most likely tell you first hand, in minute detail,
how the reproductive system can have a malfunction for either sex.

These mostly forgotten systems become front and center when there is a glitch
or something goes haywire or some outside force causes havoc…

Ask anyone who has been in an accident, fallen, or played a sport.
A system one day forgotten and taken for granted is suddenly forced
in full sight when there’s something gone awry.

So as I sat, waiting for someone to come into the exam room
in order to dig a little deeper into two systems whose warning lights are flashing,
I couldn’t help but ponder over all that goes into making us, us…

It escapes me as to how anyone can look at these interwoven systems and networks,
coursing in, out and around our bodies, and not see the hand of God…

You just can’t tell me all of these systems, with their interworking and interplays…
just happened to evolve into non duplicable entities…..

Try as hard as man does to indeed duplicate it all—he will always fall short.

Because buried deep in the center of all these systems resides a very piece of the Divine, Himself…

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139: 13-16

Resilience

“‎Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you.
Never excuse yourself.
Never pity yourself.
Be a hard master to yourself-and be lenient to everybody else.”

― Henry Ward Beecher

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(a cut sunflower / Julie Cook / 2016)

Some of us are…

And some of us are not…

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What is it that makes us resilient to this thing we call life?
That uncanny ability to hold up and even withstand the often excessive plummeting experienced throughout this journey of living?

For some of us it seems to be a hidden innate, hardwired mechanism comprised of moxie, hutzpah, determination and an odd aligning of the universe producing pure stupid luck.

It is the ability to go on and on despite the assault of physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual forces.

For so many of us, it is life’s cruel and unkind events that render us senseless, dropping us to our knees…

Yet for a few seemingly invincible souls, it matters not the hardship, the heartache, the exhaustion of mind, body and soul—these are the able bodied souls who can take a licking of insurmountable proportion and keep on ticking….

Those who have survived kidnappings, beatings, rapes, tortures, years in death camps, the loss of limbs, excruciating illness and even the tragic separation from loved ones…
those who have witnessed atrocities unbearable to most human beings…
And yet these hardy souls, for good or bad, muster on…
often time not merely surviving, but actually thriving…

Have they been gifted…
or perhaps even cursed?
Are they stronger than the average person?
Are they immune from resulting miseries?

Or is there a subconscious awareness…
a drawing down into a place a great depth that reaches farther and wider….
touching upon that deeply buried remnant piece of the Divine…

The righteous keep moving forward,
and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger.

Job 17:9

Flown the coop

“Those who have courage and faith shall never perish in misery”
Anne Frank

Amazement awaits us at every corner.
James Broughton

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(the house wren’s empty nest on the tractor, under the tarp / Julie Cook / 2016)

Amazing…
on so many different levels…
simply amazing…

Let’s take a small diversion from the current reign of havoc, or is that rain of havoc, or merely both….anywhooo….

Away from the havoc which has been beset upon us in these most recent of days..diverting ourselves away in which to wander…

Wandering away ever so slightly from that which is directly in front of our eyes…to that which is somewhat removed…
Blessedly and amazingly removed.

Yet, we must take note, it is to be no less, simply amazing.

And maybe since it is somewhat removed, tucked away and elusive in nature…
it is all of that, and so much more, which adds to the sheer amazingness of it all…

Let us now wander away to the world of the amazing…

On Sunday, 3 days ago, this empty jumble of leaves, with the giant hollowed out hole in the middle, was a dizzying beehive of activity.

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The stakes were high.
For there were five hungry mouthes which had to be fed.
We were all made keenly aware of this one important fact.
Life was suddenly all a flutter, literally.

Squawking and screeching two very busy parents hunted, pecked, chirped, sung, guarded, protected and fiercely chased away any friend or foe from the home of their 5 tiny offspring.

Not only had they labored to construct, dare we say craft, this amazing conglomeration of sticks,
leaves, feathers and fuzz…
they had selected a most safe, protected and hidden site in which to set up house.

Birds are amazing that way.

They worked tirelessly almost undetected…all but for the presence of a busy bee bird who could be seen darting, scurrying ad flitting here and there.
Eggs were silently laid and kept warm…unbeknownst to the unsuspecting nearby humans.

Yet all of that changed at hatching time.

Nonstop, two parents labored in order to gather enough food to raise up their alienesque brood.
Five oversized beaks flapped open, as 10 bulbous closed orbs protruding from wobbly heads,
continued to develop.

There would be silence…then as soon as a parent neared,
the inharmonic din of chatter began.
It was as if the sound translated into a clamoring repetitiveness of
“feed me, feed me, feed me…feed us… NOW”)

Then this past Sunday the nervous frenzy reached a crescendo.
As the tiny aliens mysteriously sprouted feathers as heads began to match bodies as wings took shape.
The parents were now worked into a fevered pitch as babies, turned fledglings, were soon to spread their wings. Mom and Dad were keen to create a safe zone, free of humans, cats and others
as their children would need some room to roam…safe yet free.

And just like that, it is…..now over.

“Did they fly away??” you pensively ask.

Well… I truthfully can’t say.

It’s as if one day they were there and the next day they just weren’t…

We’re they ready?

I’d like to think so.

As birds and their Divine Creator are each amazing that way….

The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing

Zephaniah 3:17

It’s all good…

Even if I know I shall never change the masses, never transform anything permanent, all I ask is that the good things also have their place, their refuge.
Richard Wagner

God will bestow on you the good and eternal rewards which are laid up for those who keep His commandments.
St. Columba (Columcille)

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(an afternoon of refreshments, Adare Manor / Adare, County Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook/ 2015)

There are those moments in life in which time seems to stand still…

In a good way…

The outside world is far removed as it is unconsciously, yet blissfully, forgotten…
Events and circumstances that, just a minute prior spun heavily around your head,
are now oddly light years away…
You feel yourself drifting lightly away to elsewhere…
Somewhere else that is much like that place between sleeping and waking…
that time and place where all is still, quiet, peaceful and good.

It is to a place where there are…
No worries
No pulling of this way and that
No demands
No places to be, no people to see, no fires to put out…
No looming deadlines, tests, procedures, appointments…
No screaming headlines of the bad, the sad, the scary…

For your bad, sad and scary are momentarily and mercifully put on hold.

It’s not that you pretend it’s not all there.
Not that you’ve turned a blind eye…
Not that you are foolishly disregarding the obvious and apparent…
It’s not that you have turned callous, empty or too consumed to notice…

Or…. maybe it is because you have been consumed, overwhelmed and nearly beaten down…
Because you have nearly reached your breaking point…
the point of the almost and alarmingly place of no return…

You have been spared for just the slightest and briefest of moments.
It’s as if your brain has been clicked off, and rather than churning out a litany of thoughts, frets, worries…you are still, quiet…and actually dare it be said, content.

It is a place and time of quiet reflection spent with or without company…
It is a place that is elsewhere, that is other…and for right now, all you know is that other…is good.

It is a taste, a small minuscule taste dancing across a tastebud, momentary yet distinctly detected…a taste of the very Divine…
A moment frozen in time when you have fallen into the arms of Love itself.
And yet you don’t even comprehend nor realize that’s what it actually is…
For it is so delicious, so intoxicating, so welcomed yet equally foreign and so very alien that you just can’t put your finger on what it is or from whence it came…

For all you know, with any sort of certainty, is that you’ve been granted what feels to be a momentary reprieve, a respite, a miracle of a mystical embrace….
all of which has you yearning for more….with the knowledge that you had been transported to a moment of the Holy and for that one tiny moment, everything is all good….

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A shot of yours truly in one of those happy good places, munching on a handful of dried cranberries, sitting on a giant rock, in the middle of quiet mountain stream, thankful that for a brief moment in time, life is indeed… all good.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

collision course

Our epoch is a time of tragic collision between matter and spirit and of the downfall of the purely material world view.
Wassily Kandinsky

Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect, as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”
― Albert Einstein

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(somewhere along the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

Each morning that we are so fortunate to wake…
given one more day of opportunity, setting off to what we think, dare assume, is the planned, the scripted, the designated, the intentional agenda of the day…
chances are we will fail to ever grasp the utter significance of the path we choose to take for that particular day’s journey.

Each day, each journey, each encounter, be it planned or happenstance, is known but to One and to One alone.
We cannot begin to claim to know of the journey’s experience, just that of the journey itself.
We cannot imagine the outcome as we are merely left to assume it will be the typical business as usual kind of day, time, life.

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(somewhere along the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

We depart each morning to school, to work, to the gym, to volunteer, to coffee with friends, to meetings, to appointments, to trips…
We imagine the flow will be routine.
Nothing extraordinary, nothing out of the ordinary, just the same ol same ol.

Some of us won’t come home…for there are accidents and ill fated moments.
Certain chance encounters, all equally unplanned and unimagined.
Everything oddly, sadly, cut short…or so we rationalize in our finite minds.

Those of us afforded the continuance of our day, a day which is assumed to be of “our” time and of our time alone, move simply about the routine of life—the routine of a day in and a day out existence.
Yet what we often fail to see, to realize, to comprehend is that there are moments, encounters, meetings during those daily habitual tasks which are anything but random.

For there is nothing random to the Omnipotent Creator of time and space, heaven and earth.

We meet a stranger or a friend…
We utter a word or offer a sentence…completely innocent, nonchalant, just an average thought expressed…

And yet there is nothing random, nothing innocent, nothing nonchalant–for in the very words, the sentence, the verbal thoughts offered, to whomever it is we are conversing, the words, the utterance the offering is anything but idle chatter or casual conversation.
For in that sole conversation something monumental is heard, heeded, digested…

And unbeknownst to either individual the morning that each one woke, readying for what was to be just another day of work, of school, of meetings and appointments…each was on a collision course with what was to be a tiny moment within the vast sea of The Divine…where no one is to ever be the same…

Be at peace…

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(stained glass window, St Patrick’s Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends “You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others. They are no greater than the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them. They are, like all beauties, derived from Him through the Friendship itself, so that it is His instrument for creating as well as for revealing. At this feast it is He who has spread the board and it is He who has chosen the guests. It is He, we may dare to hope, who sometimes does, and always should, preside. Let us not reckon without our Host.”
― C.S. Lewis

A disclaimer of Wonderment

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”

― William Blake

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(beauty found in the wild grasses of a meadow / Julie Cook / 2015)

The beauty and wonder of nature. . .
They stand before us in majesty and splendor
just as they float to us upon a sweet whisper of wind.

Striking and stirring
Humbling and demure.

Perhaps you’ve seen the commercial, a car commercial I think. . .
A dad takes his young son, who is perhaps eight or so, to see the massive
great Sequoias of the Redwood Forest.
The child stands at the foot of one of the oldest and tallest trees on the planet with
little to no sense of acknowledgement other than a passing “thought they’d be bigger”
The dad simply looks at his son with a slight bemused smile of “Really??”

Next scene—-the dad stands with his son on the rim of the Grand Canyon with its sweeping and overwhelming beauty.
The child merely shrugs his shoulders with the unheard sound of an unimpressed “ehhhh”
The dad slowly shakes his head in disbelief–as if to say “you’ve got to be kidding me??”

The last scene is of the dad at the wheel of the car with his son strapped into the back seat. The car is stopped in the middle of a road that one assumes is in Yellowstone Park as a massive Bison has sauntered up to the child’s window and is staring down at a now very impressed young man.
He looks up at the bison then over to his dad with an ear to ear grin across his face, as the dad finally has a sense of satisfaction in having found something in this most majestic world that has left his son speechless. . .

I believe this commercial speaks volumes to our current plight of jadedness.

It seems we’ve become so inwardly involved with our technology, our gizmos and social media overload that we are failing to be impressed, let alone acknowledging, the outward wonders which surround us each and every day.

Are we failing when it comes to our youth who seem to be more impressed by video games, television and gadgets than by the gifts of Nature? Are we failing ourselves when we don’t stop long enough to wonder at a sunset, the blooms of a flower, the majesty of a tree—no longer impressed by blossoms, sprouting, growth or natural wonder?

I stop in on occasion to read various posts by other bloggers.
I am awed and humbled most often by the shared perspectives that are offered–be it thoughts regarding the beautiful gifts of Nature, the joy of creativity found in the Arts, or the teachings and shared delvings into our relationship with the Creator of the Universe.

One Christian site, whose author pretty much tells it like it is, mixes allegory with reality while painting a most colorful observation of the relationship of man to the Holy Word of God.
In so doing he has drawn the ire of a huge crowd of non believers, as well as a few lukewarm believers who find his view a bit much, extreme, or in the thoughts of some, just totally wrong.

I for one think that Christians (of any denomination) shouldn’t dumb things down nor should we sugar coat the Word of God—To the Believer, the word is The Word and to honor that Word it is what we do—I believe we call that worship. . .
To a non believer, however, it is all simply mumbo jumbo hocus pocus.
I therefore applaud this blogger’s approach to what we Christians deem as Truth—but what is Truth to some, speaks of falsehood to another. . .as is sadly, much the way of the world. . .

Unfortunately this particular blogger is besieged with vehement commentary that reeks of on-line bullying.
The teacher and mother in me gets quite upset with the ugly things thrown his way, which are in turn, subsequently thrown to those who respond with supportive comments. It’s one thing to disagree with a fellow blogger while offering a counter thought but to sling ugly names and accusations is something else entirely.

My thought is if you don’t like what you’re reading, for Heaven’s sake, go find what it is you do like reading. And if you find something you consider out in left field, well, seek the field that makes you happy. . .allowing the Christians their right to speak their minds while allowing all the other worldly and varying religions and non religions to speak their minds as well.

The blogging world is truly a vast region to be sure. . .

Why do we attack others and their opinions?
We are all still entitled to opinions are we not?
Good or bad?
Wrong or right?

What does a blog battle of believer verses non-believer have to do with a commercial, the grandeur of nature and of you and I. . .everyone must now be wondering. . .well. . .

I suppose it’s just that I marvel at those who don’t marvel in the created marvels which have us constantly and marvelously surrounded.
How does one stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon, or along the shoreline of an ocean or at the base of a massive tree without feeling awed, wowed, or simply swept up in the greatness by feeling perhaps humbled and small?

Maybe if we turned our sites outward, rather than inward.
Maybe if we found the wonderment in our natural surroundings.
Maybe if we fought less with one another and. . .
wondered more,
wandered more,
marveled more. . .

Yes, I claim the Word of God to be the Word offered to me, and to anyone else for that matter,
who has ear to hear or desire to seek. . .
I in turn offer it here, in small humbled doses, as He offers it to me to share.
I am a vessel,
a vehicle,
a facilitator.

I don’t have all the answers to all the questions.
I stumble and fall most often along this journey known as life.
I make mistakes and screw up royally as I am no poster child for what is Holy and Pure for I know that I am broken and flawed. . .
Yet it is in that brokeness that I find. . .
Hope,
Healing,
Salvation. . .

That’s just . . .
my thought,
my opinion,
my belief—
Something I’m still pretty certain I’m allowed to have. . .
Despite it not falling in-line with that of the World’s. . .

So if you don’t feel much like wondering, wandering or marveling in the marvelous world around you, you are free to leave in order to visit other places. . .
It is here that I hope to offer morsels, crumbs, and tastes of simple Wonderment from that which is truly Divine. . .

Petitions, Grace and Gratitude (re-mix)

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.
John Milton

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(Image: a statue to Saint Anthony in the small chapel of ST. BLASIUSKIRCHE , Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

***This post was originally published in October of 2013.
Normally I don’t re-publish previous posts.
I had actually shared this particular post yesterday with a friend as I thought the subject was of importance to her and to her current life’s journey. It is a post of literal travels and journeys, as well as journeys which reach much deeper than the mere physical.
Having re-read the post myself, I was moved by my previous words as it is a strong reminder of a faith, my faith, that is so much deeper, so much stronger and so much greater than me or of the current life “journey” I’m finding myself traversing along with my dad as my traveling companion. . .
May you find comfort in the story and the words as well. . .

4/19/15

The deep groaning and creaking sound of the huge ancient wooden door being pulled open echoes loudly throughout the small yet cavernous chapel. It must be the vaulted ceiling helping to carry the sound deep into the hallowed room. The burning votives cast an otherworldly glow. There is a lingering scent of incense mixed with the musty dampness.

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly, bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before the small statue.
I once heard it put that religion was just something for old woman and children. Pity that…as that must mean that older woman and children are the only ones who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful, too arrogant to truly understand.

My eyes begin to adjust to the lack of lighting as the cool air is a welcomed feeling against the late afternoon Autumn warmth outside. I walk slowly, quietly, reverently down the small aisle, my hand resting on the smooth wooden end cap of each pew, as I make my way to my seat of choice. I kneel slightly, the genuflection of reverence, before slipping into the pew.

I’m not Catholic but raised Anglican–I oddly welcome and greatly appreciate the nuances of ancient worship–more than would be expected from my raising. There is a deep mystery which I believe many in our mainstream churches miss. This Christianity of ours is an ancient faith but that is too sadly forgotten in this age of the technologically savvy mega church. The ancient components to worship lost on those now sitting in stadium type seating waiting, as if ready for the latest block buster to begin, to be wowed not by participation but by passive viewing.

Despite my pained attempts to muffle my movements, each step, each rustle of my jacket, causes deep reverberations through this ancient room, I feel very conspicuous even though just one other person is present. She never wavers from her intense focus to her prayerful conversation. She is oblivious to my presence.

I take in my surroundings before dropping to my knees. The chapel is hundreds of years old as worship here dates back to the 1200s. Dark wood paneling with cream colored walls. Arched vaults line the ceiling with stone columns systematically placed, acting as supports, creating the aisles throughout the room. This is not one of the beautifully bright and light Rococoesque churches of Austria that the tourists clammer to enter in order to view famous paintings, statues and frescos with ornate altars boasting a multitude of plaster cherubs heralding glad tidings. This chapel is small, dark, ancient and humble. Perhaps that is why I was drawn inside.

I slip down to my knees as I make the sign of the cross. I begin my “conversation”—it is one of thanksgiving and gratitude as a tremendous sense of warmth and contentment engulfs me. I then begin my petitions—not for myself, but for those I love who are not with me on this particular journey. After some time, I open my eyes. How long had I been praying? I rest in the moment as a tremendous sense of safety and peace washes over me–it is almost palpable.

Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? I like to think that when I travel, I am a pilgrim. I want to not merely observe, but rather, I want to partake…I want to be a part of each moment in time. I am not here to watch an old Austrian woman in prayer, watching from the shadows of an ancient chapel as some sort of voyeuristic individual or as someone viewing animals in an enclosure, but rather I want to pray beside her to the same God who hears each of our prayers. I am in communion with her even though she never glances my way. I want to appreciate this chapel that is a part of her daily life, wishing I too had such a special and reverent place of retreat.

The history here is so old as countless individuals previously have gathered here to worship, to seek, to lament, to rejoice. I slowly rise from my knees slipping out of the pew. I make my way to the small alter to pick up a fresh votive. I gently touch the fresh wick to one of the existing burning flames–my hand slightly shakes. I feel the warm heat against my cheeks rising from the candles. I place my lit votive in an empty slot silently thanking Saint Anthony and God for this time of communion with not only them but with this woman who never seems to notice my presence.

I am grateful. I slip a few coins into the small metal locked box by the door. I make my way back outside, into the light. It almost hurts my eyes as it is now so sunny and bright. The sounds of the throngs of people on the streets is almost painful to my ears. This is Oktoberfest, the streets and alleyways are teeming with a sea of people.

For a brief moment I had a glimpse of the Divine. I feel different for the encounter. Changed. Better. Not in an arrogant sort of way but more in the way that I have been fortunate to be privy to something so rich and so special. I look out at all of the throngs of people reveling in this historic and exciting city during this raucous time. I slightly smile inward thinking that I hold a special secret that no one else knows….no one other than that older woman back in the chapel and myself.

You painted me a picture

If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
Vincent van Gogh

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(views of a winter’s veining sunset / Julie Cook / 2015)

You painted me a picture as lovely as can be. . .
a sweeping sea of color as far as the eye could see

First blue, then purple, then pink and red
A quilt of many colors before me you have spread

You painted me a picture to remind me who you are
You painted my name across the heavens in each and every star

In my often busy hectic world I forget that you are near
Yet during every shower each tiny raindrop holds your tear

You painted me a picture and wait for me to see
Always ready and waiting right beside me you will be

Yesterday, today and tomorrow will always remain the same
With you forever waiting for me to finally call your name

You painted me a picture because you love me oh so much
And beautiful is this painted sky with just your single touch

I stopped what I was doing long enough to catch the view
Little did I know it’s the window which leads me to you

You painted me a picture that is truly one of a kind
A picture made from your heart, love so amazing and Divine

A man and his paints

“Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely”
Sir Winston Churchill

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(photograph of Winston Churchill at his easel taken from the Daily Telegraph Sunday insert 1965 / Julie Cook / 2015)

What is it that defines a man?
What is it that defines greatness?
What sets some men apart from others?
Does eccentricity and genius run merrily along hand in hand?

January 30, 1965, exactly fifty years ago, there was a funeral held to mark the passing of a life from this world to the next. I was a mere 6 years old. There was not the streaming online constant and instant 24 / 7 news coverage in 1965, beaming and streaming live action of the funeral around the globe, but that is not to say that the world did not briefly stop that somber January day, so very long ago, in order to take notice of the silent passing of greatness from one dimension to the next.

It is a rare event in the United Kingdom to afford anyone other than a crowned monarch or consort a state funeral. Rarer still is the assembling of much of the world’s leaders, statesmen, monarchs and dignitaries for the funeral of a mere prime minister. Yet after having lain in state for three days in Westminster Hall, affording the general public a chance to offer a personal farewell, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was honored by both prince and pauper at one of the most memorable state funerals, other than that of Queen Victoria and King George, which the 20th century had ever seen. Within Sir Christopher Wren’s 1675 architectural marvel, St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the world bid a splendid farewell to one of the most renowned figures of the 20th century.

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(even the often cold and arrogant honored this giant of a man as witnessed by a final salute offered by General Charles De Gaulle )

However, behind the façade of soldier, commander-in-chief, statesman, historian, author, MP, Prime Minister, husband and father, resided a man whose peace and solace was found quietly behind a canvas.

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These photographs are pulled from several of the English periodicals dating from 1949-65 which are a part of my beloved Churchill collection. It is because of Churchill’s stalwart leadership during World War II which most of the world thinks it knows this enigma of a man—however the true identity of a man is not always found in the obvious places nor within plain sight. This most brilliant and equally eccentric man, who helped to shape much of the modern world as we know it today, was much more than statesman or commander. . .he was more than husband and father, or Victorian dreamer— Winston Churchill was a prolific painter who sought and found inner peace during the turbulence of personal, professional and world tragedies, through the simple art of painting.

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(images of paintings on loan to the Millennial Gate Museum in Atlanta, Georgia offering a tribute of the man and his pairings)

Yet below, in this most famous image of “the Big Three” taken from the conference at Yalta, in the waning months of the war,there is much more taking place than just an orchestrated famous photo op of the three men to whom responsibility fell to mould and remodel a new world. . . There is actually much more going on in this image—there is a hidden and secret dance of diplomacy and duplicity being secretly choreographed by a cold and calculating man who was a master deception–this image is the pure essence of power plays, betrayal, death, and hidden terror all silently playing out before the cameras of a painfully yet hopeful naive world.

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The slight smile on Winston’s face is misleading. Stalin never hid his disdain for the Prime Minister. He also believed he held the President as a puppet in his hands, being able to manipulate a frail shadow of a man as Roosevelt was tired, sick and not much longer for the world. Roosevelt died of a massive stroke only two months following the conference.

Roosevelt came to the conference looking wistfully towards a new world order. At this point he didn’t care what sacrifices had to be made in order to establish his elusive global Nirvana. Winston was more weary, cautious to the resetting of a dangerous chess board with equally deadly results as compared to the game which was in the process of just being played out. Winston felt beaten and betrayed. He had been mislead, left out, manipulated, lied to and betrayed by a dear friend as well as mocked and ridiculed by a wolf, or in this case an angry grizzly bear, in sheep’s clothing. He too was tired as the weight of the world rested upon his aging hunched shoulders.

And it was to his art that Winston would retreat, again and again and again. . .as most often it is to the gift of creativity that a man finds himself turning to, being drawn to, in order to set his world back to balance. In the mere act of painting or to the repetitive laying of brick in order to repair an ancient wall to a family home, Winston found comfort. He was able make sense of often senseless situations. . .in the freedom of putting paint to canvas he could find the easing of mind and solace of spirit both elusive and often battered and bruised from the realities of an often cruel world.

Outlets, diversions, distractions, escape—whatever form of creativity a man seeks, it is all a part of his birth right, a divinely inspired gift of talent and wonderment, bestowed upon him by the one true Master of Divine Creativity. It is what is good in a man. It is what is positive. Just as man works toward waging death and destruction, he works equally towards that which is aesthetically pleasing, beautiful, redeeming and edifying.

Man’s ability to create, to make “art”—is a source of peace and calm. It is a counterbalance in a world bent on death and destruction. It is the tiny piece of hope instilled in man by his Creator which helps to serve the betterment of all of mankind–a gift within an individual which has the ability to ripple outward throughout the ages, resonating to generations yet to be. . . that hope, beauty, good, wonder and joy are indeed alive and well and still very possible as the world continues to allow the dark clouds of death to gather overhead.

It was to this very “gift” that Winston sought his peace, his time of release and his place of balance in a world spiraling out of control. May we all be mindful that such a gift is still very much a part of each of us and has the tremendous ability to heal and comfort in our own equally dizzying time of madness. . .

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