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….

Do you prefer taking the easy way or the hard way…

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(An iron cross sits in the cemetery of Saint Cóemgen’s better known as St Kevin’s Monastery, Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Given the current mess throughout this world of ours…
the fighting, the dying, the martyrdom,
the lack of choice, the excess of choice, the lack of tolerance the overt tolerance,
the whole “she said, he said” tit for tat bickering and feuding over beliefs…who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s in, who’s out, who’s with, who’s against, is it a yes or is it a no…or is it or else…

Is it then any wonder that so many folks around this globe claim to be either atheist or agnostic or something else entirely… sans any sort of deity or set belief system…?! As if believing in nothing or, say a tree, would be easier than believing in a deity that requires a great deal of follower…or seems to be the very reason for all the current ruckus in the world…?!

Anyone looking closely enough would be hard pressed not to understand why, given the sad plight of so very many people globally who are displaced, living under cruel regimes, suffering from disease, hunger, homelessness, isolation, torture, loss, fear… with nary a ray of hope in sight….that there is such a deep mistrust and skepticism when none of those folks who profess to be followers of the All knowing and All caring come to offer aid, succor, comfort, help, assistance, support or relief yet rather choose to squabble, bicker, fuss, cuss, fight, kill and destroy one another….

Is it any wonder that folks find it difficult believing in as well as following Something or Someone they’ve never seen, spoken to face to face, touched, hugged, shaken hands with, shared a meal with or simply hung out with…

Yet that’s exactly what those who believe in a monotheistic “god” do…they believe in the unbelievable while they, those very believers, are to be the living embodiment of that monotheistic Deity by giving others a glimpse as to whom and what that monotheistic “God” is all about….compassion, caring, trust, integrity, honesty…

We, the body of believers, must ask ourselves…are we doing a good job at such?
And if we answer no… then we must ask ourselves—why not?

Yet those of us who do believe, who have chosen to follow the Son of that very Deity… the One True God, have chosen what seems to be the most difficult task in a world of ever growing disbelief, mistrust, skepticism, resentment and down rate hatred… to believe and follow when a world turns in the opposite direction.

Staring down the barrel of a loaded gun or on your knees with hands tied behind your back as a sword is raised at your head or as you’re being hoisted up a tree with a rope around your neck or as you lay on the ground with a cold knife pressing into your neck as you’re asked one simple question—a question between life and death…”are you a Christian??”
with the easy answer being “NO!”

Yet those who have chosen the harder path, the path less traveled by the world resoundingly respond…
“YES!”

Do you prefer easy or hard?

You must be a gambler

“Yes, I can understand that a man might go to gambling table – when he sees that all that lies between himself and death is his last crown”
Honoré de Balzac

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

James 4:14

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(an unmarked ancient grave in the cemetery of St. Kevin’s Monastery Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Words were once uttered.
Promises were clearly made
Covenants and tenants were freely given.

A roadmap, if you will, to living within the realm of balance.

Dos and Don’ts
Cans and can’ts
Yes and no

The wisdom of one Wiser than yourself issued a decree.

Ancient words now reduced to dust
Mumbo jumbo and poppycock
Fairytale dribble

You deem its relevance unnecessary

Was it real or imagined
Made up, fabricated, perpetuated
Promises given or just a pack of silly lies?

Yet in the back of your mind, you’re always left wondering…
There are days you consider the possibilities
Did He?
Didn’t He?
Was He?
Wasn’t He?

Is He…?

You live your life as though He never was.
His words, if they were His words, mean nothing to you.
You scoff, you ridicule, you curse His very existence.
Yet the words dog you, nagging and nipping at your heels.
Why curse that which you deem non-existent?
Why do you let it bother you, allowing it under your skin,
if it’s nothing but a tale?

You roll the dice each morning when you wake.
You’ve perfected a poker face…all the while hiding behind the emptiness
You live your life as if the odds are stacked forever in your favor…
yet you can’t help but wonder…

Take the risk or play it safe, throwing caution to the wind…
Or do you simply turn around, walking away forever…
A friendly little wager of “what if”…
…or is it really something much more costly…

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

Ephesians 5:15-17

Your light comes…

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Isaiah 60: 1-3

“God constantly encourages us to trust Him in the dark.”

A. W. Tozer

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(a window in the remains of the once great Cathedral at the Rock of Cashel / County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Piercing the darkness, cutting cleanly as a heated knife through butter, a great light shines…lifting the heavy shadowy cloak which has hung heavy across my shoulders all these many years.

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(a window in the catacombs of Christ Church / Dublin, Ireland / 2015)

Stooping beneath the murky weight of obscurity my head lifts as narrowed eyes ache to overcome the brightness filtering into the blackened cell of my heart.

It is as if I’ve spent a lifetime clawing and digging my way to this point, breaking the heavy stones that have sealed me in this often self-imposed tomb of indifference and frustration…as the world has labored, continuing to layer stone upon stone.

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(Sligo Abby, Sligo, County Sligo, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The realization and joy of being saved and finally resting in healing Light is exhilarating…
Yet the knowledge that darkness waits…
It will fight to hold on…
Relentless…

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

Riding the highs of Light filled days, basking in the swirling warmth, a nagging question of endurance darts in and out of consciousness like a moth seeking a flame.
Longed to be ignored yet annoying and distracting.
Shadows lengthen as a chill fills the air.
Exuberance has worn itself out as giddy filled days are a fading memory.
Can I hold on?
Will It hold on…to me…?

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(Sligo Abbey / County Sligo, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Timoleague Friary / County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
Revelation 21:23

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