truth and lies

When the truth is found to be lies
And all the joy within you dies
Don’t you want somebody to love, don’t you
Need somebody to love, wouldn’t you
Love somebody to love, you better
Find somebody to love

Lyrics Somebody to Love
Jefferson Airplane

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(St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough National Park, Co Wicklow, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

“He who dares not offend cannot be honest.”
Thomas Paine

Finding ourselves living in the balance between Truth and Lies
With fiction far outweighing reality,
The faithful stand caught in the middle…
bewildered, battered and weary.

When did this vacuum, now plaguing the land, become so fierce…
As so many are now left reeling in total shock and confusion.
No longer able to discern between this or that
as all lines have finally merged and blurred beyond recognition.

Hawking on the sidewalks, like a street vendor peddling hotdogs,
the falsehoods and fake tales are pushed as the gospel to each hungry passerby.

“Read all about it,” they shout with verbiage in hand,
while passing out dribble like candy to an unsuspecting child.
As the affluent youth tear and burn a once proud flag.

With reality and truth now being pawned off as phobia,
the righteous are stripped and thrown to the wolves.
While the insatiable appetite of the beast is impossible to quell.

The time to take courage has arrived right on cue…
As a handful of the faithful now remain ready to defend…

Yet in the end, when all is finally left in tatters and ruin…
there will be only one thing left standing in the smoldering debris,
which is the only hope that will set those who remain free…
and that being, simply…
the Truth…

But I will leave within you
the meek and humble.
The remnant of Israel
will trust in the name of the Lord.
13 They will do no wrong;
they will tell no lies.
A deceitful tongue
will not be found in their mouths.
They will eat and lie down
and no one will make them afraid.”

Zephaniah 3:12-13

directions

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem.
We all have twenty-four hour days.”

Zig Ziglar

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(path up the mountain side, Glendalough National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

I’m not the best with directions.
I tend to get turned around and a bit confused as to
the lefts and rights, the norths and souths….

Now I do actually love a good map…
yet sadly maps are going the way of the 8 track tape cassette…
And anyway…the truth is that I’m not really that great at using maps.
I get turned around as to whether I’m heading east or west, up or down, or side to side…

However I have always found old antique maps to be beautiful pieces of art—
Especially really old ones that were once done by hand,
with cartographers doubling as artists.

It’s as if maps are the tangible pictures of our city’s, country’s, world’s inner workings…
almost like a scan image of a skeletal system is for the human body,
a map is the picture for our collective spacial lives.

And whereas I am thankful for the modern convenience of GPS…
What with the plugging in of an address, place or coordinates only to then be directed
to wherever it is that we wish to be headed…
turn by turn, step by step…

However I can be as equally ungrateful when said turn by turn step by step is incorrect,
outdated or simply wrong.

Ever thought you were headed to where it was you wanted to go,
with the nice GPS lady finally and triumphantly stating that you have “reached your destination”
as you find yourself in the middle of some desolate road in the middle of nowhere?!

So with all this map talk, I read a most marvelous little story today on the BBC about
a letter being mailed from Reykjavik, Iceland.

It seems that the sender was mailing a letter to a farm
where she had visited but was uncertain of the address—
so she did the only intelligent thing she knew to do…
that when all else fails sort of approach…

she drew a picture, actually a mini map, as to where the letter should be headed…
all the while adding a few little written directions on the envelope to accompany the tiny map…
Just a few small helpful cues to the postal person who would be delivering the letter.

The small remote town’s name was listed,
the fact that the letter was going to a couple with three children…
The fact that the intended recipient worked at a supermarket there in the small town
plus the fact that they lived on a horse farm with lots and lots of sheep…
it was all nicely included with a wonderful plotted picture of a route…

( you can read the story here by clicking on the link:
http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-37233913 )

The letter was actually delivered to the correct place.

Such a story does my heart good.

So…
Whereas the postal system here in the US is, in a nutshell, not often stellar.
Mail seems to get lost, delivered to the wrong address, or damaged so badly in the system
that it is “returned to sender” …
that is, if the return address is still legible.
Or there have even been times when things mailed may have taken weeks,
months or even years before randomly appearing…

Now that’s not to say that it’s all bad or always a lost cause in this
maddening bureaucratic system of US Postal Service…
but sadly it seems there are more horror stories than good these days…

So the fact that a map was drawn out by hand, then someone actually took the time to “study” it,
then correctly followed it…
in this ever technological world of ours…
is indeed a joyous event.

Add to that maddening bureaucracy that we are now all finding ourselves living in this
ever uber modern world of all things technological of ours…
what with our smart devices, our GPS, our self braking, self parking,
and soon to be, self driving cars…
so it seems as if we won’t have much use for our ol noggins
when we’re trying to make our way in this life…as it will actually be already done for us…
Yet the concern should be…will it be in the right direction that we are lead…?

And that’s the thing…
We all need to make our way in this life…
with that way being…
the right way,
the spiritual way,
the way of Life and not the way of death…
to which so many signs sadly point to these days…
We still so desperately need a play by play list of directions.

Yet, I think if I remember correctly, we already have a directional manual…
One that is thousands of years old….having stood the test of time…
One that has recorded the verbal commands of the only One who truly knew
and still knows…
the way…
the truth
and the life…

We just need to remember to always reach for that directional map,
actually taking the time to read it and actually follow it…
for it will never mislead or misdirect us…

Happy travels….

Jesus answered,
“I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6

Bad, Sad and bittersweet

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(Glendalough National Park, Co Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Another long hard day.

Today promises to be much the same as there are to be more tests and scans
in the early hours of the day.

We sat side by side in an exam room at the Oncologist’s office.
The pleasantries all neatly said and done,
the facts were placed before us in not so easily digested wording.

Dad sat slummed in the wheelchair as he wrung his hands nervously round and round.
Frail and feeble I thought I was looking at my grandmother 30 years prior.
I wonder when his skin became so thin and translucent…

The doctor excuses himself to go check on the latest scan reports…
The air now thick and heavy in the exam room as we wait,
with the unspoken words of what will be…

Dad turns to me and asks…

“Reckon where we go when we die”

Sirens go off in my head as this question of skepticism is
percolating up from somewhere deep inside a Baptist turned Episcopalian…
as a lump forms heavy in my throat…

“We go to heaven Dad”

“How do you know?”

“Because He said so Dad.

“Who”

“God…Jesus…”

“Where do you think we go Dad?”

“Maybe it’s like you were never born…
you just aren’t any more…”

“No Dad, we go to Heaven,
Cause He said so”

“Well….I guess I can see Ed…”
(my brother who committed suicide almost 25 years ago…

“And I guess I can see MaryAnn
(my mom who died from cancer 30 years ago, today would have been her 83rd birthday)”

“Yes Dad, you can…
(and here’s where I know we need to lighten this train of thought)
but I think Mother may ask you what’s up with this Gloria business…”

“Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have done that should I?”

“No Dad, probably not but it’s a little late to think about that now…”

And so went the course of the day…
Heavy thoughts hanging over our heads…

We went from one doctor today to another…
Then I cried the whole way…
driving back home as I sat in and out of a sea of cars…

And I have to be back at 8:30 taking him for more testing.

It’s all bad and yet it’s all good.
It could be worse, yet it could certainly be better…
It’s hard and will not be easy…

Yet as hard as it is,
I know…
without a doubt
He knows
and He hears,
and He sees…
And He is in our midsts….
and that a better place and time awaits….

For it is by grace you have been saved,
through faith—
and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God…

Ephesians 2:8

Where is the Sacred?

“There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”

― Wendell Berry

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(St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough, County Wicklow / Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Where is the Sacred,
the Holy,
the Hallowed?

Where has it gone?

Has man lost his connection to the Divine
and what it means to be
reverent,
quiet,
observant….

Oh how it so seems…

Does the mocking of a drowned two year old child, off the coast of Turkey,
make anyone else uncomfortable, distressed or disturbed…
or is it just me?

Does Charlie Hebdo and others who make light over everything and anything,
who use the satirical to…
malgin,
berate,
and draw attention to…

Do they, the magazines, the papers, the comics.. try to make us…
better,
wiser,
more insightful…?

Do they make us think, laugh or simply feel numb?

All with their mocking, ridiculing and disrespect…?

Freedom of speech…
it is the rallying cry is in not…
The defensive call to arms.
Yet whose word is free and whose words are not?

What of….
what of the respect found within that freedom…
what of the cost of human sanctity found within that freedom
what of the spilled blood found within that freedom

Was respect not rooted in the foundation?
Civility?
Courtesy?
Fairness?

What of the respect for…
for life,
for death,
for the living,
for the dying,
for the less than,
for the maligned,
for the young,
the old,
all found within that freedom…

What of the honor to be afforded to all human beings regardless of…
stature,
class,
race,
age,
belief,
Does none of that matter…
Is it all just fodder now for our obsession with the biting satire of our own contagious dark humor?

Oh laugh and chuckle if you will.
That nervous sort of ridiculing and jaded scoffing…
Join the masses of those who have grown numb, cold, closed, shallow, empty…
and so over the top that there is no longer room for the kind, the compassionate, the soul…
the Hallowed,
the Holy
or
the Sacred…

Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
Exodus 3:5

Are you happy with what you seek

“There are only three types of people; those who have found God and serve him; those who have not found God and seek him, and those who live not seeking, or finding him. The first are rational and happy; the second unhappy and rational, and the third foolish and unhappy.”
Blaise Pascal

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(St Kevin’s Monastery, Gleandalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Where is it that you go always looking to and fro?
Is your life filled with too much noise and a quest for grander toys?
Is it all simply too distracting, time consuming and soul extracting?
Are your days spent wasted while your heart lays empty,
As you whittle away your life with that which is small and petty?

Listen now my friends to the wisdom offered long ago….

Up now, slight man! Flee for a little while, thy occupations; hide thyself, for a time from thy disturbing thoughts. Cast aside now thy burdensome cares, and put away thy toilsome business. Yield room for some little time to God; and rest for a little time in him. Enter the inner chamber of thy mind; shut out all thoughts save that of God, and such as can aid thee in seeking him; close thy door and seek him. Speak now, my whole heart! speak now to God, saying, I seek thy face; thy face, Lord, will I seek (Psalms 27:8). And come thou now, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek thee, where and how it may find thee.
St Anslem

May your days be many and your troubles be few. May all God’s blessings descend upon you. May peace be within you may your heart be strong. May you find what you’re seeking wherever you roam.”
Irish Blessings

to infer

Since reasoning, or inference, the principal subject of logic, is an operation which usually takes place by means of words, and in complicated cases can take place in no other way: those who have not a thorough insight into both the signification and purpose of words, will be under chances, amounting almost to certainty, of reasoning or inferring incorrectly.
John Stuart Mill

The idea of a God we infer from our experimental dependence on something superior to ourselves in wisdom, power and goodness, which we call God; our senses discover to us the works of God which we call nature, and which is a manifest demonstration of his invisible essence. Thus it is from the works of nature that we deduce the knowledge of a God, and not because we have, or can have any immediate knowledge of, or revelation from him.
Ethan Allen

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(St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Limitation collides with the Limitless
Try as it must, it cannot describe that which is beyond description.
The human mind labors to find the words…
even just one word…
but it fails.

An Entity that is without time, without form, without definition, without words…
Efforts are made to contain, to explain and to chain…
To detect, to dissect as well as inspect
Yet to do so has proven impossible.

Is IT greater than?

Of course IT is…
Without exception…

Yet…

The ego must see, must touch, must measure….
in order to claim, to believe and to state that something is indeed real.

The masses are left to merely inject, project, and to infer…
their own words…
their own thoughts…
their own meanings…
as well as
their own feelings…

Making IT forever less than…
less than IT should ever be…

“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.
1 Chronicles 29:11

The weight of silence

“In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”
Mother Teresa

Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you,
remember Christ crucified and be silent.

–St. John of the Cross

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(grave marker, St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

There is nothing more crushing, more suffocating, more humbling, more welcoming…
nay more invigorating than Silence.
It is penetrating, lonely, encompassing, exhilarating and greatly needed.
Silence is soothing, healing, teaching and utterly necessary.

Yet it is feared.

It is avoided and fought with the frantic filling of each and any void with noise…
Loud, raucous and incessant…
Jabbering nervous nonsense…
Anything to stave the penetrating and uncomfortable knowingness of Silence.

For it is more familiar and more knowing than self ever dares on its own

There is a sickening dread and queasy uneasiness because vulnerability is glaringly exposed…
Yet there is truth within it’s vast and sweeping depths…
As truth must be fully purged if one is ever to become pure.
It is required if one is ever to hear the stillness found
in the presence of the The Great I AM

But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
Habakkuk 2:20

To what extent do we love

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.
Saint Augustine

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(image of St Kevin as seen in an ancient Irish codex 9th-10th century)

“It is said that once upon a time St. Kevin was kneeling with his arms stretched out in the form of a cross in Glendalough. . . As Kevin knelt and prayed, a blackbird mistook his outstretched hand for some kind of roost and swooped down upon it, laid a clutch of eggs in it and proceeded to nest in it as if it were the branch of a tree. Then, overcome with pity and constrained by his faith to love all creatures great and small, Kevin stayed immobile for hours and days and nights and weeks, holding out his hand until the eggs hatched and the fledging grew wings, true to life if subversive of common sense, at the intersection of natural process and the glimpsed ideal, at one and the same time a signpost and a reminder. Manifesting that order of poetry where we can at last grow up to that which we stored up as we grew.”

This kindly tale of St Kevin and the blackbird, as told by Seamus Heaney, is a tale of which legends must be made as it goes well beyond our modern comprehension of the probable or even the possible.

That a man, caught up in the rapture of deep prayer, could or would be so very still that a bird would light upon his hand in which to lay her eggs…then out of his sweeping concern, compassion and love for all of God’s creatures, particularly for this blackbird and now for her eggs, knew his task was to remain as still as possible until the eggs hatched and the baby birds could fly away on their own.

Poppycock and fairytales….
Far fetched myth and lore…
A sweet little tale for the naive and gullible…

Yet is that simply the single point we are to glean from this sweet little story…
a tale of unbelievable feats carried out all because of a deep abiding love…
or….
…is there more….
as in much much more…?

Perhaps this tale is but a reminder…
A reminder that we have been offered Love…
A great, vast, forgiving and consuming Love….

And the amazing thing about all of this is that we are actually the object of that Love.
We were actually created out of that Love.
So it should come as no surprise that we are to, in turn, exhibit and convey that same Love
to any and all we encounter along our way…
Because within that Love resides a Power so deep and so strong that it is greater than any power known on Earth…
That should we both acknowledge and honor that Love, there would be no limit to what that Love through our faith and actions could accomplish…

Held within each of our lives is a powerful Love…yet sadly we don’t seem fully aware of the absolute strength of what is possible…

Perhaps it is the likes of St Kevin, as well as the countless other believers throughout the ages whose amazing acts of selflessness, as well as superhuman feats, is what is rooted deep within the abiding and almost naive belief that this very Love is capable of truly the unbelievable….

Rejoice

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

(words taken from Mary’ prayer
Luke 1:46-56)

We wait, we wait….
Destiny waits in the hand of God, shaping the still unshapen.
Destiny waits in the hand of God, not in the hands of statesmen.
Come, happy December, who shall observe you, who shall preserve you?
Shall the Son of Man be born again in the litter of scorn?
For us, the poor, there is no action,
But only to wait and to witness.

T. S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

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(a stand of ash trees / Gleandlough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

What better visual expression and example could exist in which the earth proclaims the majesty of the Creator, as they, the trees, teach us all what it means to rejoice, to delight, to be jubilant and exuberant…

The trees lift our eyes and hearts upward, as we also yearn to reach ever heavenward…drawing our sights, our minds, our senses upward while raising our spirits as we lift our voices in unison singing HOLY, HOLY, HOLY…as we wait expectantly for the birth of the Savior of all mankind….

The 3rd week of Advent is known as Gaudete –latin for the word Rejoice
Hear the words of the ancient hymn:

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!

Rejoice, Rejoice O Israel,
to thee shall come Emmanuel!

As this 3rd Adventen week begins, which will actually begin on Thursday December 17th, with the admonition by Paul– “The Lord is near”

Did you hear that?
The Lord is near…..whoa…
As in His presence is in close proximity to our own, your own..
He is close and getting closer by the day, by the hour, by the minute…
Not a mere fable or sweet little story of something that happened long ago..
but rather the approaching of someone real who is soon to be in your presence just as you will be in His…

Does that not make you want to turn around…
to look both left and right as the presence of the Almighty is near and drawing ever closer than you could ever imagine?

Your heart quickens as you feel the reverberations of something monumental.
Your palms are wet, your knees are weak and your mouth is dry.
Something bigger, greater and more grand than you have ever known is soon to take place…. as you my friend can barely wait…

Get ready…
Be ready…
Be watching…
The time draws nigh…
He’s almost here…
are you ready?

Prepare our hearts
and remove the sadness
that hinders us from feeling
the joy and hope
which his presence
will bestow.

(taken from the Catholic prayers for Advent)

More than

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
― Augustine of Hippo

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts,
there can be no more hurt, only more love.

Mother Teresa

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
― C.S. Lewis

“The harder the conflict,
the more glorious the triumph.”

Thomas Paine

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(remnants of Cong Abbey , County Mayo, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It whispers across a cool morning breeze…

Do you hear it?

It’s the sound of a thousand and one voices drifting endlessly across the ages.
It’s the mournful cry of a dove at dawn.
It’s the melodic symphony of an unseen orchestra of crickets on a warm summer’s night.

It rides along the ocean’s waves…

Do you see it?

It’s the wonderment you feel as you gaze upon the night sky awash in a million twinkling lights.
It’s the brilliance of color bathed endlessly across a skylit canvas as the sun offers a joyful good morning.
It’s the overwhelming eruption and dazzling display of a myriad of blooming wildflowers in a quiet hidden meadow…

It’s a familiar scent wafting upwards from somewhere unexpectedly…

Do you smell it?

It’s the fresh scent of grass from a newly mowed lawn
It’s the heavy smell of rain riding in on the winds before a storm.
It’s a long lost memory catching you off guard as you suddenly capture a whiff of your grandmother’s home

It races from touch to touch…

Do you feel it?

It’s caught up in the soothing memories from a now distant childhood.
It’s the sudden chill you feel as the sun dips out of sight on a cool fall’s night.
It’s the welcoming comfort found in an offered smile.

It’s much more than ancient history or the crumbling bits of mortar and stone now abandoned and long forgotten…

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(crumbling remains hidden away deep within Kevin’s Monastery, Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s really more like the bits of sand found in your shoe after a walk along the beach…small and tiny, yet largely distracting,
rather uncomfortable and most difficult to ignore

The curious and the tourist alike each pick their way through the labyrinth of time long past, as they wander about pondering and musing what it all meant and wondering where it all went.

Yet you know don’t you….?

You know it never went anywhere.

It’s been here all along.

Buried deep within your heart.

But it was never meant to stay buried or forgotten.

Never meant to be for tourists or the curious to gawk and pick.

It was never meant to crumble nor decay

For it is living and breathing and yearns to be shared

It’s the gnawing ache felt in each beating heart.

It’s that nagging feeling of being out of sorts as your spirit seems lost in the fray.

It’s in the melancholy and sorrow that shadows a seemingly empty day

It’s the longing for home when you’re already there.

A Spirit most holy yet hidden, longs to hide no more.

A Spirit Loving yet concealed, longs to be revealed.

A Spirit Mighty and Great, longs to be proclaimed

You know It don’t you….?

Because It knows you….