bring an empty heart

“It is part of the discipline of God to make His loved ones perfect through trial and suffering.
Only by carrying the Cross can one reach the Resurrection.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen


(fall leaves doing what they do, fall / Julie Cook / 2020)

Reading the late great archbishop’s words…I would imagine that some readers don’t
much care for the notion of man’s enduring trials and suffering while on this earth…
that of carrying the Cross…with each as a means of reaching the final end goal—
that of our being Resurrected with Christ.

We don’t like to think that we are meant to carry a cross, that we are meant
to suffer or endure…a loving God should want us happy and content right??
A loving God shouldn’t allow those He created and supposedly loves to suffer
or to encounter pain, violence, or be handed a heavy cross to bear…

yet…

What we need to remember is that we live in a fallen world.
Sin shadows our every move.
In our lifetime we will each experience various trials.
Avoiding them as best we try, trials will still come regardless of our vain attempts
to keep them at bay.

However, our best recourse is to rid ourselves of ourselves…
To sever our ties to the trappings of this earth.
To completely empty our hearts.

For it is in that emptying, as St Liguori reminds us, that we are allowed
be open ourselves for the filling of the Holy Spirit.

We must detach ourselves from ourselves and from the world in order to save ourselves.

And it is only through following Christ, first to Golgatha then to that empty
tomb, that we will find our true peace and joy and everlasting life.

“The heart cannot exist without love; it will love either God or creatures.
If it does not love creatures, it certainly will love God.
In order to become holy, we must therefore banish from our heart all that is not for God.
When anyone came to the Fathers of the desert and desired to be received by them he was asked:
‘Do you bring an empty heart that it may be filled by the Holy Ghost?’
And they were right, for a heart that is filled with the things of earth has no room
for the love of God.
He who brings a vessel filled with earth to the spring will never be able to fill it
with water until he empties it of the earth with which it is filled.
How does it happen that so many pray and go frequently to Holy Communion and still make
no considerable progress in the love of God?
The reason is doubtless because the heart is full of self-esteem, of vanity, of self-will,
and of attachment to creatures.
He, therefore, who wishes to arrive at the perfect love of God must practice poverty in spirit.
He must be detached from worldly possessions, from temporal honors,
from his fellow creatures, and from himself.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 114-5
An Excerpt From
12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation

***off for a few days in order to find a few more falling leaves with the Mayor and the Sheriff

confession of sins and prayer

“O my God, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve to be served,
to give without counting the cost, to fight without fear of being wounded,
to work without seeking rest, and to spend myself without expecting any reward,
but the knowledge that I am doing your holy will.
Amen.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola


(fallen fungi / Julie Cook / 20202)


(fallen fungi / Julie Cook / 20202)


(fallen fungi / Julie Cook / 20202)


(fallen fungi / Julie Cook / 20202)

“Whoever confesses his sins…is already working with God.
God indicts your sins; if you also indict them, you are joined with God.
Man and sinner are, so to speak, two realities: when you hear ‘man’ –
this is what God has made; when you hear ‘sinner’ –
this is what man himself has made.
Destroy what you have made, so that God may save what he has made…
When you begin to abhor what you have made,
it is then that your good works are beginning,
since you are accusing yourself of your evil works.
The beginning of good works is the confession of evil works.
You do the truth and come to the light.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1458
An Excerpt From
Catechism of the Catholic Church

“Be not puffed up, be not overjoyed, nor vainly presume…”

“If God were our one and only desire we would not be so easily upset when our opinions
do not find outside acceptance.”

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2020)


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Therefore, when God gives spiritual comfort, receive it with thanksgiving,
but know that it is the bounty of God, not thy merit.
Be not puffed up, be not overjoyed, nor vainly presume,
but rather be the more humble for this gift and the more cautious and fearful
in all thine actions; for this hour will pass away and temptation will follow.
When comfort shall be taken away from thee, do not presently despair;
but wait with humility and patience for the heavenly visit,
for God is able to restore thee a greater consolation.
This is no new thing, nor strange to those who have experienced the
ways of God: for the great saints and ancient prophets have often felt
this kind of variety.”

Thomas à Kempis, p. 64
An Excerpt From
The Imitation of Christ

To the place where God is hidden

“Faith and love are like the blind man’s guides.
They will lead you along a path unknown to you,
to the place where God is hidden.”

St. John of the Cross


(mushrooms found along my walk in the woods / Julie Cook / 2020)

The point is simply that without God’s grace we cannot be good.
Without love, justice turns to cruelty.
Without hope, courage turns to blind despair.
Without faith, this-worldly wisdom is foolishness to God.
The two levels, natural and supernatural, hang together.

Peter Kreeft
from Back to Virtue

‘patches of Godlight’

“Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could
never get from reading books on astronomy.
These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’
in the woods of our experience.”

C.S. Lewis


(shelf fungus oddly existing on the dry red dirt of Georgia / Julie Cook / 2020)

I think we need to go to the woods.
Why?
Because we need a diversion from ourselves.

I am oh so weary from the vitriol and hatred that is eclipsing our senses.

We need to be reminded that we are truly small and that there is a world out there that is
actually much greater than ourselves.

We actually need to be put back in the food chain in order to grasp
the bigger picture—-
however sadly, we tend to run in the realm of human predation…so what can I say.

Let’s get out of our cities, our lockdowns, our narrowmindedness.
Let’s get out from under the bickering and hatred racing around our lives.
Let’s go to the woods…

But before we actually get into the woods, we’ve got to park the truck.
We’ve got to start walking…
and here’s what we see before we even get into the woods…

We see a lone downy turkey feather covered in the morning dew…


(turkey feather covered in dew / Julie Cook / 2020)


(detail of turkey feather covered in dew / Julie Cook / 2020)

Before we venture much further, before we leave the rutted red dusty path and diverge
into the thick stand of trees and vines, we see a carpet of dew-covered netted webs…


(a spider web covered in the dew / Julie Cook / 2020)


(detail of dew covering a spider web/ Julie Cook / 2020)

More tomorrow when we finally venture readily and willingly deep into another world…

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Can’t you see? Not exactly.

Can’t you see (I’m gonna take a freight train) can’t you see
(I’m down at the station lord) what that woman (ain’t never gonna go back) been doin’ to me
Can’t you see oh can’t you see (gonna ride me the southbound)
(All the way to Georgia) what that woman (till the train run out of track) been doin’ to me

Marshal Tucker Band 1973


(from N-lightenment.com)

Ok, I’m diverging today entirely from any topic we’ve been riding lately.
Driving basically off the cliff and jumping the tracks of all subject matter.
No politics.
No debate observations.
No current civil unrest rants.
No religious tit for tat…
Something entirely off track.

That Marshal Tucker Band song up above, that I’ve allowed to open this post,
is from my youthful days of high school and it came racing to my mind
yesterday morning.
It came after I’d woken from the longest and oddest dream I think I can ever
remember having.

Now, remember I’ve been fighting the withdrawals from my HRT (hormone replacement therapy)
for almost 3 months.
There has been NO, I repeat, NO sleep worth mentioning in all that time—
only insomnia and rolling hot flashes on and on all night long.

I begged my doctor to do something.
Yes begged and pleaded actually…that’s how bad me not sleeping becomes.
Reluctantly she put me back on the HRT but it is a dose fit for a mere ant.
And an ant’s dose isn’t doing me any good.

So yes, me without any real consequential sleep is not pretty.
Just ask my long-suffering husband.
He now gets very little sleep as well because all I do is toss and turn and
kick off covers all night long.

So the night before last, I doubled the CBD oil dose (yes the doctor said she
hears it helps with hot flashes but I take it for IBS and no it is not
helping with the hot flashes) plus doubled my IBS meds.

And so I actually slept without fighting my hormonal self.
Maybe I had drugged myself…but I digress.

But in that sleep came that bizarre dream.

They say that dreams are actually quite brief but I swear this particular dream went
on all night.
Even when I’d groggily come to some sort of consciousness,
I’d quickly tell the dream part of my brain to let it keep playing out because
I wanted to see how it all ended.

I believe that dreams are a mixed bag.

I believe God can speak to us in our dreams.
I believe that the devil can speak to us in our dreams…which are more like nightmares
but again, I digress.
And I believe we can speak to ourselves in our dreams.

So this dream had a younger me and an old childhood friend galivanting about.
I’ve not seen this friend of mine in years so that was the first odd thing.
Plus we were more like our younger teenage selves.

Next, we ran into a former President and first lady.
Now that is really odd because I’ve not thought much of this presidential duo
in several years. A bit of a past president but not too long ago.
Think W and Laura…
And I usually don’t think that much about presidents, let alone first ladies.

There was a woman who I think was actually that first lady.
She was kind and soft-spoken.
In the dream, something bad had happened to her,
a terrible betrayal and I had known about it.
And I felt terrible for her.
Yet there was nothing I could have done to stop it as I realized the trauma when she had–
that being after the fact.
Yet I ached for her anyway.

I can remember looking at her and she looking at me—so I impulsively took her in my arms to
hug her and offer comfort.
Not that I’m a big hugger in real life, but I do hug those who I feel are in need.
People who hurt do need hugs, but overall I’m not touchy-feely.

However, it was the look on her face, the love in her eyes towards me,
and her embrace of me that was what got to me.
Now granted her face is not the face of the real first lady in question.
Dreams work that way…you think it’s a real person but the faces are
never quite what we actually know them to be.

I woke almost with tears in my eyes.
And then started ruminating.
And then the Marshal Tucker Band song just revved up, playing in my head.
And no, the CBD oil does not contain any THC!
This craziness is all me and me alone.

Now we all know that I’m adopted.
We all know how that crazy story played out as I’ve written at length about
being adopted and having learned the identity (sort of) of my birth parents
all these many years later— written just last year.

I know who my biological father was—and from everything I’ve heard, he was a
good and kind man.

My birth mother on the other hand, who is, yes, still living, has not been as kind.
She let her lawyer inform a social worker that I was in the past and that
was where I was to stay.

And I was like, ‘Ok, you’re what…84? and I’m almost 61??…so yeah,
I’ll just stay in that past.’
Paaaallleeeezzzze.

Anyway, I did come to a peace about all of that a while back…something I’d also written
about…so it’s good to have all this material to write about I suppose.

But what I knew from this dream was that something deep inside of me yearns for that
sort of love that I saw in that woman’s eye for me and felt in her embrace.
Something I’ve never seen or felt before.
Nope never.
A deep abiding, unconditional love of a mother to her child.
And all I know is that I wanted it…or shall we say, want it.

Yep, you read it— a 61-year-old sleep-deprived woman is pining for a mother’s love.
Go figure!?!

And yes, I’ve written about this before as well…my adopted mom and I,
before her premature death to cancer at 53, had had a fractious relationship while
I was growing up—especially when I was a teenager.
But I don’t know too many moms and daughters who delight in one another
during said teenage years…
We were much closer when she suddenly got sick and died prematurely.

As that angst-driven teen, I was headstrong, stubborn, and detached from both my mom and my family.
Our family was a dysfunctional hot mess and I resented every minute of it.

I’ve written about that too…
all about my brother’s mental illness and his inability to cope
with his having been adopted…and thankfully we were not biologically related.
So you would think I’d quit having these random, out of the blue, type dreams…
but nooooooo.

And no I don’t need therapy.
I have been prayed over long ago for healing and healing came.

But to still want that sort of love is not to simply be dismissed
or even purged.
There’s something there and it keeps knocking
at a deep door in my being.

It’s a good thing to want love and to be loved.
I don’t think there’s a whole lot of that running around this country of ours these days.

So maybe that’s it.
God is bringing the idea of unconditional love to the forefront of my thoughts
because we are all living knee-deep in divisive hate.
And no, that is NOT the fault of the sitting president…it is
the fault of every human being who is ranting and raving these days.

So yes, I still yearn for that embrace.
Just as I still yearn to see that look of love in some unknown mother’s eye.

And I suspect, one day…I will both see and feel that look and that embrace…

So here’s to love.
Ture abiding love…

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

1 John 4:16

Birds of a feather

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”

Emily Dickinson


(a great pictures of happy turkeys caught on my husband’s trail cam / 2020)

Ok…if you’re feeling like I’m feeling, you’ll agree that life has gotten
really really heavy.

A crushing weight rests on our shoulders.

Pandemics.
Politics.
Elections.
Civil unrest.
A roller-coaster stock market.
Football is a mess…

Every political voice currently hitting the airwaves is rising in a crescendo of volume
as they speak of all sorts of apocalyptic happenings come November.

Take today.
The gal who cuts my hair was making me a new appointment and it so happened to fall
on November 4th…
I asked her…”do you think we will all still be in one piece on November 4th?”
She responded, “probably not, but I’ll pencil you in, just in case.”

And so when I saw the picture of those turkeys on that trail cam, I laughed out loud.
Turkeys so excited that it’s almost November and it won’t be Turkey season in
Georgia until March…no Thanksgiving table for these birds…

Enjoy it while you can they seem to be saying.
So yes, let’s enjoy life…while we can.

Always be impartial and just in your deeds.
Put yourself into your neighbor’s place, and him in yours,
and then you will judge fairly . . .
Frequently, therefore, examine your heart, whether it is so disposed towards your neighbor,
as you would have his disposed towards you, were you to change places;
for this is the true test.”

St. Francis de Sales, p. 226
An Excerpt From
Introduction to the Devout Life

when did respect die???

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself.
The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he
cannot distinguish the truth within him,
or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others.
And having no respect he ceases to love.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

“It may be important to great thinkers to examine the world,
to explain and despise it.
But I think it is only important to love the world, not to despise it,
not for us to hate each other, but to be able to regard the world and ourselves
and all beings with love, admiration and respect.”

Hermann Hesse

“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!”

Edwin Markham

This quote by Edwin Markham…it was one of my favorite quotes… or better yet,
it actually became a sort of life rule that I kept close to my heart when I was in high school…
way back in the mid 70’s when I first found it.

It is a quote by Edwin Markham (April 23, 1852 – March 7, 1940)
He was a poet, as well as an American poet laureate, hailing from Oregan.
He was a prolific writer with most of his work coming from the years between 1923-1931.

This quote came racing back to my thoughts yesterday after a little incident I witnessed
at my local grocery store.

Let’s think of where I live.

I live in what is considered to be a small town.
We are about an hour west of Atlanta, give or take the traffic.
Yet we are a college town.
And we are what some might consider to be a sleeper community of Atlanta.
Meaning, folks drive back and forth to the big city in order to work.

We have big businesses but we still have a cattle sale barn that operates every Monday.
It’s where the local farmers bring their animals each week to show and sell…
So yes, we have pastures, cows, goats, sheep, bulls and yet we also have
global industry, a major hospital, a Division II college, and two nationally
recognized school systems…

Our town is a good town.
A small town with rural charm along with a comfortable modern feel.

So yesterday afternoon, I ran to the grocery store, our local Publix.
As I made my way to the door, pulling my mask over my face, I saw an older woman,
in her 80’s pushing her cart out of the store.
She was sporting a Trump 2020 t-shirt along with a black Trump 2020 face mask…
smartly accenting her jean skirt and sneakers.

I noticed out of the corner of my eye an elderly gentleman approaching us pushing another
grocery cart…he was bent over with age and I surmised he was her husband.

She told me she wanted to tell me something.

As she was an older woman and I have a deep respect for older folks,
I knew I needed to pay attention to what she wanted to tell me.

I don’t care what race, creed, or religion an older person might be,
they will always have my respect.
That’s how I was raised.

I might be almost 61 myself but I will always respect those who are older than I am.

No matter who they may be or where they may come from…be they humble
beings or more well do to…our elderly population are our treasures.
They have lived through so much, be it good or bad, and they have so much to
teach each one of us.

So when one of that generation tells me they have something to tell me,
I’m all ears.

This very southern gentile woman begins to tell me that a young man…
she told me his race, but to be honest I couldn’t make out exactly what she said
given the muffled voice coming from under her mask,
I could have easily assumed she was referring to a black male, but I’m just sticking with
young male…

This young male saw her shirt and mask and told her to her face that she was a
“fucking racist.”

Suddenly I felt a sick feeling hitting my stomach like a brick.

That could have once been my grandmother.
For some punk to call my own grandmother a “fucking” anything would have
sent me reeling.
For all I know, my grandmother probably never had heard of such a word!
She was that much a southern lady…much like this woman

By this time, her hunched-over husband chimed in telling me that had he heard
this young man say that to his wife, he would have hit him but he was
not nearby as he was just trying to get a cart to help him walk.

Here was a feeble elderly man feeling that his wife has been terribly insulted
and he wasn’t there to defend her—and that tore my heart to pieces.

I apologized to this couple that such should have happened to them on this humid September
Thursday afternoon at their local grocery store in small-town USA.

I felt so hurt.
So much so that tears came to my eyes.

I could have just as easily seen an elderly black man or woman wearing a BLM shirt
at the store and I would never have ever considered saying a word.
I might have disagreed, but I would respect their choice, their right,
to wear such because that is indeed their, our, right as Americans.
I don’t have to agree, but I do have to have respect.

Why?

Because that is how I was raised.

And so that one little word, that one little issue, is, in a nutshell,
the answer to all of this idiocy taking place across this Nation of ours…
respect has died.

May she rest in peace.
And may God have mercy.

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them,
for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 7:12

3 things

“Three things are necessary to everyone:
truth of faith which brings understanding,
love of Christ which brings compassion,
and endurance of hope which brings perseverance.”

St. Bonaventure


(a Georgia evening sunset / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Walking by faith, let us do good works.
In these let there be a free love of God for His own sake and an active love for our neighbor.
For there is nothing we can do for God.
But because we have something we can do for our neighbor,
we shall by our good offices to the needy gain the favor of
Him Who is the source of all abundance.
Let us then do what we can for others;
let us freely bestow upon the needy out of our abundance.”

St. Augustine

Herschel for President!!!

“Not to question you, Mark, but do you know what the organization stands for?
Besides saying, Black Lives Matter.
Because I say one of the things that we have to address is Americans’ lives matter.”

Herschel Walker


(Herschel Walker circa 1981/82 / UGA / Julie (Nichols) Cook)

HERSCHEL WALKER FOR PRESIDENT!!!
It was a chant often heard ringing throughout Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia on any
given fall Saturday during the early 1980s.
It was a time when both football and Herschel were each king in my small world.

I actually took that rather grainy little picture of Herschel…
it was either the spring of 1981 or 1982, I can’t exactly remember.

My sorority was hosting a 24-hour rock-a-thon in order to raise money for
the international medical organization Project Hope.
We were rocking all night, having raised various pledges for our time and effort spent rocking.
Campus celebrity Herschel Walker came by to sit and rock awhile in hopes of boosting our pledges.
Hence the picture.

If you’re any sort of college football fan, then you know the name
Herschel Walker.

His time playing football for the University of Georgia is the stuff
of legends.
He won the Heisman Trophy his junior year and he helped the college
win a National Championship in 1980.

Athletically, Herschel was a track star, a football player, an NFL player,
a United States Football league player, an Olympic bobsledder as well as a boxer…
and it should be known, he’s still not finished.

So I won’t go into his lengthy and legendary biography here, but just know that
I have the utmost respect for Herschel.

And I have that respect not because he’s from my home state.
Nor because we went to college together.
Nor because he was and is an incredible athlete.
But because Herschel, like many of us, had demons.
Herschel fought those demons through his faith in Jesus Christ–
he has been very public about his battle and his victory through Christ.

I caught a news story yesterday that Herschel and Mark Cuban had got into a bit
of a tit for tat the other evening during a FOX news special hosted by Harris Faulkner.

Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and has been very
vocal in that he will paint Black Lives Matters on his basketball court
and will allow and support his players in expressing themselves however they may
so choose during the coming season.

Herschel, however, questions the logic behind such as he wonders if Cuban,
as well as many others, truly understand what Black Lives Matters actually represents.

Herschel noted that “One of the problems I think that we have
is a lot of these sensitive topics we don’t want to address,
you know, we don’t want to address these sensitive topics
so what we try to do is water them down and try to shout people down,”
Walker told host Harris Faulkner on the special
“The Fight for America” on Sunday night.

“To say that you’re going to put BLM [Black Lives Matter] on the field or on a jersey,
well some people may not believe in BLM,” the Heisman Trophy winner continued.

“For myself … there’s no doubt BLM is important,
but American lives are important. …
The organization of BLM, I’m not sure what they stand for.
And so how could an NFL say we want to support BLM or we’re going to do this here
without having the players to say what they want?
Because you cannot put that on a player who may disagree with it.”

Cuban disagreed with Walker but I for one agree with Herschel.
Do those such a Cuban, who are jumping on the bandwagon, truly know and
understand what BLM means or what it stands for?
Do they realize it is a violent organization rooted in Marxism?
Or do they really care?
Is placating the mob more important than exercising real knowledge?

I for one do not want sports to be so politized.
The National anthem and flag brouhaha was just the starting point…
now we have more anthem issues with the addition of a “black” anthem
and we have teams, players and owners who want to politize their
sport…

Sports in the US has always been a unifier and not a
divisive tool.
So now we might as well just say so much for simply loving the game
for the mere sake of the game.

The notion of games, fun, hard work, competition, bragging rights, etc have
been traded in for something much more sinister.

I’m just glad that we still have a few steadfast voices such as those of
Herschel, along with those other voices of average men and women,
each who question the bandwagons and the pushing of agendas down the throats
of both players and fans despite the fact that not all stand in agreement
with the current direction, we seem to be headed.

So yeah, thought-filled and thoughtful rather than angry, emotional, and reactionary.

Yep, Herschel for President…

https://www.foxnews.com/media/herschel-walker-mark-cuban-black-lives-matter-nfl-nba