awake at night

“When you awake in the night,
transport yourself quickly in spirit before the Tabernacle, saying:
‘Behold, my God, I come to adore You, to praise, thank, and love you,
and to keep you company with all the Angels.'”

St. John Vianney


(sunset over the the gulf /Julie Cook / 2018)

The past several nights I have woken up around 2:30 AM—wide awake.
Hot.
Sweaty.
Uncomfortable.
Despite the AC running and my husband gently snoring, sleep for me is over.

My back aching with the slightest move–and now an aching neck and shoulder.

It hurts to turn, to roll, to twist.

Dreams, when they come, have been vivid, leaving me wondering and pondering.
Pondering much too much for such an unwelcoming hour.

Time passes with no relief as the numbers of the clock tick on and on.
No calm nor slumber.

Sleep, for me, is often elusive but more so as of late.

When the morning light comes, it is almost rude and unkind as
I find it harder and harder to get up since sleep now tries to
arrive right when it’s time to get up.

Exhausted and ill, I grouse at the day.

Last night, my brain turned on, my eyes popped open and it was only 2:30— my mind racing.
I ruminated on and on like a cow chewing cud over my latest odd dream.
Unresolved ancient issues or just the aching of a herniated disc?

I examine the past.
“NO”, I shout to my hyper-focused mind…” this is not the time!”

So my brain now toys with me, as the unending partial lyrics to a song
begin playing over and over as the earworm bores deeper into my brain.

“STOP”, I silently plead to my restless brain….”just let me rest”, I implore.

And so…I pray.
Focusing on that which is greater than the madness, greater than my weariness.
I offer myself over to You as a sacrifice…
Hear my prayers oh Lord…

“Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner”

Over and over I repeat the soothing words until I sense my mind and body quieting in unison.

“My Lord, I offer you myself in turn as a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
You have died for me, and I in turn make myself over to you.
I am not my own.
You have bought me; I will by my own act and deed complete the purchase.
My wish is to be separated from everything of this world;
to cleanse myself simply from sin; to put away from me even what is innocent,
if used for its own sake, and not for yours. I put away reputation and honor,
and influence, and power, for my praise and strength shall be in you.
Enable me to carry out what I profess.”

Bl. John Henry Newman, p. 135
An Excerpt From
Everyday Meditations

Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love

“Sin is the distance between us and God”
Bishop Gavin Ashenden

(this poor cherub or putti’s feet have frozen off / Julie Cook / 2018)

I think I’ve used the above quote before…
However, it doesn’t seem any less important or any less relevant than say, the other day…

The other day when listening to Bishop Ashenden’s rather reflective homily,
as well as the latest installment of Anglican Unscripted,
the good Bishop was reflecting on having been asked in an interview
“what is sin?”
or it may have been more along the lines of “what is your understanding of sin?”

Either way, the Bishop was about to be taken to a very public task, or so thought the
interviewer of all things cultural…

The very secular interviewer, after asking the Bishop the question regarding his take on
what sin actually was, in turn, told the bishop that he did not feel at all “sinful”
and so the notion of what a sin was, was totally irrelevant to him and therefore obviously
anyone else who wasn’t feeling the least bit sinful.

Well, this is where the good Bishop clearly demonstrates that he knows his ‘stuff’…

He tells the interviewer that “coming to God is not something that one can do cerebrally
or rationally”

He then goes on to explain, as I shared in my post the other day, that there are actually
two types of sin—
there is the sin that the Christian recognizes—
that being the distance between himself and God.
And then that of secular sin which is anything that runs counter to the current culture’s
perception of the normative.

Bishop Ashenden goes on to note that all the recent hashtag business, the #metoo etc,
frenzy is, plain and simple, nothing more than secular sin.

The Bishop watched the Golden Globes, I did not.

He has some choice words for those who, draped in black, captured the stage in an attempt
to make a pitch to their “dewy-eyed acolytes.”

Bishop Ashenden explains that as our society has become besotted by sex,
it has become simply our very present focus.
For it surrounds us in almost every aspect of our daily lives—
through advertising, entertainment, books, music…it is an obsession.
An obsession, that many have gotten quite good at ignoring.

Society has created a secular apocalypse with women like Oprah Winfrey and Meryl Streep
rising to the occasion of rounding up the feminist troops while intimidating and
crushing any questioning, or opposition or competing intentions…
a frenetic feeding frenzy of destructive shaming.
There is no room for remorse, healing, redemption or hope.

Yet oddly there are years of images with both of these women in cozy photos with the likes
of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton, and Roman Polansky…
women who had chosen to ignore truly bad boy and even illegal behavior.

And so we are now left wondering…
What is it now that makes things different from then…?

Is it now somewhat advantageous?
Has the time of championing feminism come into its own as it is now the popular
cultural bandwagon.
Is #metoo putting the ‘me’ in all of us dangerously closer at the center of our own universe
at the expense of common sense, grace and mercy?

Or is it simply the bravado of self-deception found in a society steeped in the notion of
its own sense of self-righteousness?
Found in its notion of the importance of the ‘we ourselves’…
Never mind answering to an authority greater than ourselves…for there is none…
because we are the demigods who have no need of anything or anyone greater.

The Bishop notes that in this secular societal self-righteousness, there lies a deeper problem.

Pure hypocrisy.

And the thing is…none of the rallying cries or the saber rattling or the
rabble-rousing allows for or has room for the utter forgiveness and redemption
found only in Jesus Christ.
For found in the sinfulness of the secular, there is no way back for the sinner.
No hope for the fallen.
And no hope equates to immediate death.

A stark contrast to the mercy, forgiveness, redemption, and life found only in the hope
of Jesus…

And thus he leaves us not with the damnation found in the current culture’s angst but
rather with the hopeful words of William Blake

“To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.”

William Blake

Talking to LBC (London Radio) about sin, sex and God -(as captured by an Australian website.)

‘Operation Opra’: Secular self-righteousness – a mixture of morality, hypocrisy and revenge.

If necessary for years, if necessary alone

“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo,
and it’s worth fighting for.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

“I indicated a fortnight ago as clearly as I could to the House that the worst possibilities were open,
and I made it perfectly clear then that whatever happened in France would make no difference to the resolve of Britain and the British Empire to fight on,
if necessary for years, if necessary alone.”

Prime Minster Winston Churchill addressing the House of Commons / June 4, 1940


(Winston Spencer Churchill)

Sometimes the most unlikely individuals step into the crosshairs of history…
and when they do— we and the world are never the same.

Winston Spencer Churchill was just such an individual.

He was an unlikely candidate to ever be immortalized by anyone–
be it on the stage of his home nation or the stage of greater world at large.

And large he was—large in personality, determination, resolve and grit.

The type of leadership one seeks when finding oneself in the clutches of
a menacing death grip.

Yet he was actually greatly despised by many—by his fellow MPs as well as by a
few world leaders….both Hitler and Stalin to name but a few.

He was often brusk—often lacking the more refined social filters.
He suffered from a life long speech impediment.
He had performed poorly in school, often disappointing his famous father.
He was considered arrogant.
He was half American…a black eye in British aristocracy.
He came across as pompous, a braggart and a loud mouth.
He both drank and smoked entirely too much for most of the more genteel of company.
He loved to talk…most often in excess…and most often about self….
He was thoughtless with his finances, teetering constantly on ruin.
He was often selfish and self-centered and a poor keeper of time,
his as well as others.

And yet he was brilliant.
He was tenacious.
He had humor and he had heart.
He was a visionary who both clearly saw and deeply understood…

And he was a man accused of war mongering by those who I suspect would not
have minded living under the dictatorships of tyranny.

He was a wordsmith….
Gifted with both the written and spoken word….an orator for the ages, Churchill
used both to his keen advantage to rouse a frightened, sagging and crestfallen
nation.

He was shrewd and calculating,
despite being considered often half cocked and ridiculously unreasonable.

And he was the the single undetered force that stood between democracy and death
when no one else was left standing or when those who were still standing, stood quiet.

I saw a trailer for a movie—
a movie for which I’ve not seen any advertisement over….
No commercials, no billboards, no star studded endorsements…..
No hype nor hoopla of which is afforded to those other movies boasting of
fantasy, fiction or filth….

It is a movie that is actually already out in theaters as I also suspect having long
left others.

It is a true story.
A real story.
A story of courage in the face of what appeared to be unavoidable demise.

It is a movie about a man who many know by name only…as that is all they know.

This current generation, so lulled by the complacency of materialism and of the
falsely perceived angst over matters of little to no consequence, have no idea
the gratitude they actually owe this enigma of a man.

Yet this man, who this movie portrays during a particular dark period in time,
is the very man who sacrificed everything within his power just so that you and I
today could enjoy the comforts of our lives….

Theses are a few links to previous posts I’ve offered on behalf of
this legend of a man…..

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/written-words-from-a-father/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/what-he-knew-and-others-chose-to-ignore-deja-vu-or-simply-a-continuum/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/authority-vs-power/

Meat and potatoes

One gets to the heart of the matter by a series of experiences in
the same pattern, but in different colors.

Robert Graves


(the red snapper at Bud and Alley’s Seaside Beach, Fl / Julie Cook)

Ok, I admit….this is a picture of a fish with potatoes and not a steak.
as in “meat and potatoes”

I did have a lovely picture of a prime rib roast which I had cooked a while back,
but the fish seemed a bit less red and well, meaty…as I know there are those
out there who just really are opposed to “red” meat….despite my knowing there are
those who will grouse over the whole well, whole fish…meaning head and eyes….
but we digress….

I’ve stated before, I’ve always been a meat and potatoes sort of girl.
Be that meat…fowl, pig, lamb, fish or cow…..

Yet today’s post is not about food…meat or starch…
but is a post that we might just call more of a hearty dose of the
Word of God….being sustenance for the soul verses the food for the stomach.
As in getting down to the heart of the matter….

And now that the dust has somewhat settled…as the snows are now melting…
life is settling back into its normal madness of Christmas….
sans any of the distracting, as well as debilitating, white stuff.

Power is now restored.
Limbs are now cut up and stacked.
Cars have been moved to where they belong….
As schools resume to normal schedules today.

So in the madness since late last week, when the snows did begin to fall,
I was literally pulled away from much of my reading and study as my duties
were needed immediately elsewhere—
And I was particularly pulled away from my reading and focusing on the teachings
of those 3 favorite clerics of mine…

And what a delightful hodge podge of spirituality they are—

A renegade Anglican priest, a reformed Presbyterian minister and a Catholic monk…

And may it be known that whereas each one of these men may seem,
from all outward appearances to be vastly different,
when all the pretense of what the world perceives of them is
peeled away, they along with their messages, are but one in the same.

And I for one delight in that.

In my distraction with the snow and writing about such…there has been so much
that has actually taken place that needs not only my attention but yours as well….

Jerusalem is being recognized by the US, at long last, as the capital of Israel…
much to the chagrin of most of the world as well as by many actually in the US
itself.

The Pope, much like our US President, has boldly and perhaps blindly, ventured
to where he may not should have trod, by declaring that the Lords’ Prayer
needs an overhaul….see the perspiration beads forming at my brow….

Sexual harassment continues to prevail in our headlines as it appears to have crept
into the fold….

And my friend who I made mention of the other day…
the one whose family business my family had frequented for the past 25 years or so,
lost her earthly battle early Friday morning.
During the last time we had a chance to chat, which was just a couple of weeks ago,
I noticed that my friend was rather sad and weepy.
I asked what was troubling her….and this 78 year old friend looks me in the eye
and tells me “I miss my momma”—- as I look back at her,
telling her how I understand because I miss mine as well—of which she knew….
So I am uplifted in knowing that both her son and daughter were by her side
when she gave up the earthly ghost and headed on home to be with her mom…

All of this, along with all the other tit for tat that has been happening in what seems
to be my snow encrusted writing absence, will each be addressed in due time…..

But first I wanted to return our focus to Advent.

Because isn’t that what our focus should currently be about?
Advent.
As in The Coming….

I spent some time this morning listening to the 2nd Sunday in Advent’s homily
offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden…I was a day late and a dollar short,
but none the less, blessed.
12 delightful minutes of good meat and potatoes for the soul.

The good bishop reminds us that Advent is a time for making space in our hearts,
more space for Jesus.

He tells us that this is the time that we are to be about repentance…
in order to make sacred space available.

Bishop Ashenden focused on the reading of the day which was taken from the Gospel of
St Mark (Mark 1:1-8) in which there is a good description of John the Baptizer…
a man wearing simple garments and who is sustained by eating wild honey and locust.

The good Bishop admits to having always been a bit perplexed as the why
the locust eating would be so important as to be included in the text….
but a Greek friend noted that the true translation in Greek, as only Greeks would understand it to be, was not that of an insect but rather actually a type of flower—
of which seemed to make much more sense.

So we get the complete picture of John…that he was a simple man,
living off and being sustained by the land.
Not the crazy loner off in the desert howling by the moon at night as he
has often been portrayed—perhaps more mad than wise.

And so as we note–John was very simple—
in turn bound by no worldly trappings what so ever ….

John both proclaimed as well as accused those of his day of having
lives way too full—
and that the time had come to make the choice…

The choice being between holding on to that which gets in the way of God or
to choose to move out and get rid of that which gets in the way…
getting rid of that which is separating ourselves from God and God alone.

Very much what we see society and our culture forcing upon us today—
Especially and particularly this time of year!

Our lives, particularly during Christmas, are so chocked full that we are
practically to our breaking point.

We are so full and overwhelmed with all that must be done to
make the “holidays” just so special, magical and wonderful…
on top of already busy lives with school and work….
that we are actually crowding out Jesus.

Crowding Him out from the very time He is to actually be at the center of
our focus.

Bishop Ashenden notes that John’s message of Metanoia, or that of our total change
and or transformation, is so important because it calls us to a new way of examining
things….

Yet at the same time the good Bishop admonishes us that…dare we say,
there is a spirit of evil actually at work, at this very moment, particularly now…
during this time of year that we are being called…called by God.
It is all so totally opposite of the call of the Holy Spirit.

For there is a force working to counter that call…
countering with the distractions and demands we actually throw upon ourselves
particularly at this time of year.

Shopping, church pageants, visits to Santa, picture taking, card writing and sending,
choir practice, school plays, sporting events, making costumes, wrapping gifts,
sorting, cooking, parties, cleaning, traveling…
all of this on top of the already endless demands of both work and school—
All of this becomes the priority while the true essence of Christ is pushed further
aside.

We fight to pretend and convince ourselves otherwise—
we rationalize that we are doing what we are doing because IT IS Christmas…
yet none of it has one single thing to do truly with Christmas—
or Christ Mass…

None of this is to be about lifestyle and clutter but about having the presence
of God at our forefront…as Bishop Ashenden pointedly asks…
“how much time then do you allot for prayer, the reading of scripture,
and loving the Lord?”…especially now during this chaotic time?

I found that I had to really look at what he was saying…
I had to look closely at what gets pushed aside…looking at what is then
actually pushing its way into being the priority….a false priortiy.
The priorities that society makes of us during this season…

Our culture clamors that we are to be all inclusive…and non discriminatory—
but should we not be exclusive and discriminatory over that which is demanding
to be the forefront of our focus—-all of which is not the true essence of Christ
nor of Christ Himself….

wrestling and waiting

“Father, teach us all how to wait.”
Andrew Murray


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2017)

I must confess that I’ve been in a prayerful desert as of late.
Meaning I have been petitioning God long and hard…
yet it seems that my pleas just fall upon a vast emptiness….
as in…deaf ears.

However I know that I am not alone in my frustration or perplexity
of this seemingly one way spiritual conversation.

I am not the first nor will I be the last to beat upon the gates of Heaven
only to hear…what is perceived to be…..nothing.

Yet on and on I pray with little to show for my diligence.

Or so it seems…I go unanswered.

There are tears.
There is anger.
There is frustration.
There is indifference…
and there is a sense of hopelessness….
until….
It all begins all over again….
As a determined penitent rolls up her sleeves, continuing on, unabated.

It is because I will not be deterred…
not by the whispered doubts and naysaying….
not by the one who would like nothing more than for me to quit,
give up and walk away in disgust and frustrated anger.

And the truth is that somedays are indeed much harder then others…

And so today, as I was continuing to walk through the desert,
focused and imploring….
I actually stumbled upon a small respite of wisdom.

For I learn just how old my plight actually is….
As the wisdom of those who have trod this path before offer me a cup
of refreshing living water….

My child, hear about another delusion.
There are also other monks who work on all the virtues together,
and trust in their works. And when they pray and ask something from God,
they do not seek it with humility, but with insolence and pretension,
as if they have obligated God with their toils and therefore He owes it to them.
When they are not heard and the Lord does not do their will,
they are troubled and greatly grieved.
Then when the Devil our enemy sees them with this ignorance,
he attacks them with twisted thoughts and teaches them saying,
“See? You are struggling so hard even until death to work for Him,
and He doesn’t even listen to you!
So why do you work for Him?”
Then he pushes him to blaspheme the name of God,
so that he may enter inside him and possess him,
and then people bind him with chains….

But you, my beloved child in the Lord, since you are obedient,
and confess everything openly, do not be afraid.

excerpt from Elder Joseph the Hesychast.
Monastic Wisdom: The Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast.
An Epistle to a Hesychast Hermit. Chapter XII.

For the full reflection see the post:
https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com

There are times when our prayers seem so one sided.
On and on we pray, beseeching and imploring and yet….we hear no movement..
we see no results.

We often expect, or if the truth be told… we actually demand,
that after we’ve demonstrated an unrelenting persistence of time, energy and focus…
then surely God will move Heaven and Earth in order to show us how much He cares
and just how well He listens and just how much He agrees with each
and every component of our prayer…never mind if there are others involved in
said prayer…

As it is all just so utterly frustrating when we believe that all we see and hear
is merely empty silence.

No movement, no shifting, no little glimmer that things are working in the direction
of our desire, need, hope, want….

And for many, it seems almost cruel…this silence.

Yet we are told that no prayer goes unheard.

I once heard it put that God answers prayers in one of three ways….
Yes
No
Not now….

And more often then not, it is the ‘not now’ that is most vexing.

And so we pray on…

Because He knows and He sees and He is listening…

We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end,
so that what you hope for may be fully realized.

Hebrews 6:11

ok

Everything’s gonna be alright
Nothing left, but love’s in sight
Everything’s gonna be alright now
Everything’s gonna be alright
It’s gonna be alright

Lyrics by England Dan and John Ford Coley


(sign at Spruill art gallery / Dunwoody, Ga / courtesy the web)

We drove over to the northern Atlanta suburb city of Dunwoody yesterday afternoon.
My cousin’s wife, who is retiring after 41 years of teaching—high school math of all things,
was the focus of a little retirement shindig.

It had been years since I’d been to that area north of Atlanta.
So much growth and so much congestion…
I can remember when the area was nothing more than a sleepy little northern hamlet…
an area more accustomed to farms and cows than to high-end restaurants and shopping malls.

Change is inevitable I suppose…
progress so they say….

If you’re anything like me, these past several months have left you feeling….
well anxious…
and if the truth be told, you’re anxious without even realizing how truly anxious you really are.
It seems as if there’s just been an unsettling that has completely settled over our lives.

Unless you are an Orthodox monk living on Mt Athos or a Buddhist monk living in some
lost to time nook in Tibet, you have been overloaded with the caustic vehemence that
most of the world is currently hurling back and forth on itself…
so much so without even realizing just how overloaded by it all you’ve become….

It’s troubling for even the most grounded among us.

It’s been sad, depressing, agitating, frightening and even alarming.

And even if you’ve sworn off watching the news….
the heaviness is so pervasive that it has permeated deeply into not only our nation,
but it has saturated most of the greater free world.

Priorities are so screwed up that it leaves the more concerned among us wondering what
it is we can do in our own little corners of the world to makes things better, brighter,
softer, kinder and simply more sane…

So there I was driving home, following the afternoon’s celebration,
making our way back to the interstate when I spotted, with my periphery vision, the sign…

A large plain black and white painted sign on the side of an old barn….
a quaint old barn that is obviously a preserved and last standing vestige to the original
structures that once called this now uber urban city a rural country home.

“Everything will be ok”

I had to do a quick double take back to my left while focusing on getting through the
congested intersection just to make certain I had read correctly.

It was as if some wonderful paternal unseen force…
a force that was greater than anything in the world at just that very moment
had gently, soothingly and yet very matter of factly stated for all the world….
Everything is going to ok…

And so it shall be….

In you, Father all-mighty,
we have our preservation and our bliss.
In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving.
You are our mother, brother, and Saviour.
In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvellous and plenteous grace.
You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us.
You are our maker, our lover, our keeper.
Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well.
Amen

St Julian of Norwich

(A link to a nice little article about the barn and the inception of the sign
http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2016/05/26/everything-going-ok-dunwoodys-spruill-gallery/?utm_source=Reporter+Newspapers+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=b542a61cbf-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_DUN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dbd6e0112e-b542a61cbf-407315065)

a vision of Lent

“Contrary to what might be expected,
I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful,
with particular satisfaction.
Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in
my seventy-five years in this world,
everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence,
has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained…
This, of course, is what the Cross signifies.
And it is the Cross, more than anything else,
that has called me inexorably to Christ.”

Malcolm Muggeridge

dscn2555
(Bonaventure Cemetery /Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook 2016)

Lent…
giving up
sacrificing
doing without
fasting
denial
hard
difficult
arduous
abstinence…

But what is it about this Lent…this entering into the desert…
this time of isolation and self denial….
What brings us here?
Why are we here at this crossroads…
Where is it that we are now bound…
What will be the point of this…
longing,
introspection
and intent of focus…

As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his wounds as he hangs.
We see his blood as he dies.
We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of his resurrection.
He bows his head, as if to kiss you. His heart is made bare open, as it were,
in love to you. His arms are extended that he may embrace you.
His whole body is displayed for your redemption.
Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind:
as he was once fixed to the cross in every part of his body for you,
so he may now be fixed in every part of your soul.

St. Augustine

img_0373
(detail/ painting by Julie Cook)