the journey of deconstruction

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.
Who looks outside, dreams;
who looks inside, awakes.”

C.G. Jung

“There is a spiritual loneliness, an inner loneliness,
an inner place where God brings the seeker,
where he is as lonely as if there were not another member of the Church
anywhere in the world.
Ah, when you come there, there is a darkness of mind,
and emptiness of heart, a loneliness of soul,
but it is preliminary to the daybreak.
O God, Bring us, somehow to the daybreak!”

A.W. Tozer excerpts from various sermons…How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit


(a viola begins to open / Julie Cook / 2021)

So it has been brought to my attention, over the last week or so,
that perhaps some of my recent posts…
posts that I’ve offered as reposts, along with those penned as recently as this week,
seem to be skirting around a central theme…
a theme of the forlorn or even that of the melancholy.
Some have even asked “are you ok?”

Well…I think I’m ok.
And I think the posts have been timely…as perhaps it is
the times in which we are finding ourselves which is rendering
that underlying sense of the forlorn and melancholy.

But I suppose I should confess that I have been spending a great deal
of time recently thinking about loving and being loved.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about breaking and being broken.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the implications of giving while receiving.

And I’ve fiercely been wrestling with the whole notion of Grace.

Do you know that giving Grace is one thing…while
feeling worthy of receiving such is something else entirely?
Or so I’m learning.

And so I’m faced with the nagging question of how can we freely offer others
such if we find our own selves feeling less-than when needing to
receive the same in like turn?

It is indeed a conundrum.
A conundrum of self.

And thus I have actually been finding myself looking backwards.

Not so much because I’m afraid of going forward, or that I wish to be morose…
rather I’m looking back in an attempt to better understand the now.
Or maybe I should say “my” now.

And no, I’m not talking about looking back through the lens of some sort of
historical context, a political context or a cultural context.
Heck, I’ve purposefully been distancing myself from my obsession
with all things news…avoiding the latest barrage of current events
all of which leaves me more depressed than hopeful.

I am finding that I need to declutter from the world for just a bit
in order to make some sense of the bare bones of this thing we call life…

I’m finding that an interior life issue is far greater than the Border Crisis,
a Pandemic, Dr.Fauci, President Biden, a broken chain of supply and demand,
inflation, vaccines…the list is endless….
and the list is a massive distraction and not the real issue at hand.

For the real issue is that which lies within.

And maybe that’s part of the point.
Avoid the real issue by being distracted by the world’s issues and madness.
And what good am I to myself or others if I am consumed by a world’s madness?

Introspection is a fine line when walking through one’s memories.
We must tiptoe through the effects that those memories have had on our lives
as well as the lives of those we’ve carried along the way.

We must balance such with both clarity and wisdom.
Depression, regret and sorrow are never far behind…dark specters who
nip at our heels while we embark on such a journey.

Such a journey that often becomes an endless void, much like a black hole
that pulls all energy and light into its darkness.

So we must be careful that we are not consumed.

One thing I know about God is that He is often a deconstructionist.
Meaning, He is one to break apart before rebuilding what was into
what needs to be.

I think I’m in the middle of some much needed deconstructing.
Deconstruction, like breaking, is an often hard fraught process.
It can be painful yet oh so necessary if one ever hopes to be whole.

Yet we must remember there is a difference between being broken
as in left in pieces vs being taken apart, dissembled, in order
to be rebuilt anew.

For what God opts to take apart, in order to piece back together
as only He sees best, is indeed to be made more perfect.

It is a journey…and not an easy journey…
but if you ever want to find peace and truth, it is
a journey that must be taken.

So here’s to the journey!
For the bad and then the good!

An excerpt from a post written March 4, 2016

When excavating the locked chambers of the soul…
that quest for the missing piece to wholeness…
The path is narrow, fraught with both emptiness and loneliness
And the darkness will be exacting.

It is a journey few care to traverse…
Isolation is a key requirement…
The striping away of all exterior noise and distractions…
leaves exposed the innermost secrets of one’s very being.

God is exacting.
He is a selfish God, who wants all and will not settle for any less.
He wants not that which is freely offered, willingly given…
He wants, nay demands, that which is desperately held back.

The re-union of created and Creator is inevitable.
There are those who eagerly seek the synthesis, the rejoining…
While others vehemently fear it…
The fragility will shatter…into a million fractured shards…

Out of the mire, the sucking and suffocating quicksand of death…
The spirit longs to reach upward, yearning for home…
Yet it is in the depth of death’s vast darkness that the fractured soul searches…
While the Creator waits…

Bring us home oh Lord
Strip us of that which prevents us from being with you..
Deliver us out of…
the brokenness,
the loneliness,
the emptiness,
the isolation…
of self
Bringing us to the daybreak of You…

the one difference between Heaven and Hell….only Love

“You have not chosen one another,
but I have chosen you for one another.”

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

“There is no safe investment.
To love at all is to be vulnerable.
Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.
If you want to make sure of keeping it intact,
you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.
Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries;
avoid all entanglements;
lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.
It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable,
irredeemable.
The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.
The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

tangible vs intangible

“God, of your goodness, give me yourself;
you are enough for me, and anything less that I could ask for would
not do you full honor.
And if I ask anything that is less,
I shall always lack something, but in you alone I have everything’.”

Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

Friendship is one of the most tangible things in a world
which offers fewer and fewer supports.

Kenneth Branagh


(an Anglican rosary / Julie Cook / 2021)

One of the greatest conundrums for Christians…
and perhaps that for our Jewish brethren as well,
is that of the tangible vs the intangible.

Merriam-Webster tells us that tangible is defined as:
able to be touched or felt

The opposite of that, intangible, is defined as:
an asset (such as goodwill) that is not corporeal
:an abstract quality or attribute

So it seems as if our conundrum exists between that which can be touched,
felt, held, vs that which is abstract and perhaps more intellectual…
as in something that is not to be touched or held.
Something far and beyond…
as in Omnipotent and of a different realm from our own.

I think we’d all agree that an Omnipotent God tends to exist in the realm
of the intangible.
As in above as well as beyond that of mere mortals.

And as a said mere mortal, that being one who likes to touch, feel
and know that what I cherish is indeed “real”…
the notion of the abstract and intellectual is not easy.
In fact it can downright frustrating.

Personally, I am one who wants, nay needs, to be able to touch, hold and feel.
And in turn I need to be touched, held and felt by others.
That’s how I know something is indeed real and in turn others
know that I am equally real.
That one on one physical connection is so utterly necessary.
It is soothing, comforting and for the lack of a better word, sound.

Yet our faith defiantly implores us to trust.
Trust in the unseen.
Trust in that which is not to be touched, felt or held.
Trust in that which does not readily physically embrace us.
Trust in that which is beyond our grasp and beyond our worldly vision.

Somedays that is not a problem.
Our intellect can make sense of such and we have a bit of transcendence.
Our thoughts can delve beyond both space and time.

Other days, it seems to be a mere impossibility.
A day goes bad.
We feel under the weather.
We feel alone.
We are hurting.

And it is in those moments we need the tangible.
We need to touch and be touched.
To hold and be held.

It is the only link in knowing that we exist and that we matter.

That is why there is many a night I fall asleep holding my
Anglican rosary in my hands.

I have both Catholic and Anglican rosaries–however being raised
in the Anglican communion, I am more comfortable using that type of prayer rope.

Holding such “a prayer rope”, helps me to feel as if I have something that I
can hold in my hand that allows me to feel as if I am holding God’s hand.

The other night had been tough…and so as I readied for bed,
I reached for my rosary.

I knew I was desperately in need of “the tangible”

I eventually turned off the table lamp and laid on my back while
staring upward through the inky black night.
I held on tightly to the rosary.
Reciting an ancient set of prayers for each bead. The beads moved one by one, passing through my tired hand.
This tiny ritual of mine was more of a matter of my imploring, or more like begging, God to please come quickly be by my side.

I imagined that as I prayed holding those beads, I was actually holding the Father’s hand.
Just as a young child, I had reached out my hand to take His hand in mine.

Oddly, when I had finally drifted off to sleep, turning over, I actually loosened
my hold of the rosary.

It was during that brief fitful interim of sleep that I had had an awful dream.
A troubling dream.
One that had me waking short of breath and with actual tears in my eyes.
I felt a sense of rising panic.

My bad dreams have always been terribly vivid.

Immediately I found myself feeling in the covers  for my rosary.

Finding it, I clutched it to my chest. Still feeling shaken, I knew I was holding it so tightly that the beads might just pop off.  But I also knew that in my despair,  I had actually reached out my hand for God’s hand just as He in turn offered
me His hand.
We stayed that way, holding hands, for the remainder of the night.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love.
Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

1 John 4:16

can a grape break your heart…maybe it’s time for Grace

“Doctoring her seemed to her as absurd as putting together
the pieces of a broken vase. Her heart was broken.
Why would they try to cure her with pills and powders?”

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina


(red grapes /Julie Cook / 2021)

What causes a heart to break?

What causes that overwhelming suffocating pressure inside
your chest when you realize that your heart is actually breaking?

Is it sorrow?
Is it loss?
Is it absence?

What is it that causes that deafening pounding inside one’s brain
while an unending flow of tears leaves an etched trail cascading
down cheeks?

Is it fatigue?
Is it distance?
Is it emptiness?

Could a grape break your heart?

The fact that the bag stated seedless grapes and yet they were full of seeds…
can that break your heart?

Grapes most likely will never break your heart…

But maybe it’s who was last eating those grapes…
Maybe, just maybe, that’s who can break that heart.

What about a can of diet Dr. Pepper?
Can a soft drink break you heart?

Doctors might agree that caffeine isn’t necessarily good for your heart
as it might just make your heart race, however the chances are that
that drink won’t leave your heart broken…

But maybe, just maybe, it’s the person who was last drinking that soda
who might break your heart.

So what about an endlessly hungry, bottomless pit, of a cat…can such a cat break your heart?

The incessant meowing of one who wants feeding at each and every turn,
might break your nerves, but most likely a hungry cat won’t break your heart…

Yet maybe, just maybe it’s the thought of who last fed the cat which
can break your heart.

And what of a stack of wine corks…
Can a random stack of wine corks break your heart?

Some agree that drinking wine might actually be good for your heart, it is however
doubtful that an idle stack of leftover corks would ever break your heart…

But maybe, just maybe, it’s the creator of that idle stack that might just
break your heart.

And so what of scent?

What of the lingering scent that remains from one who was, only moments
prior, holding you in their arms?
Does that remaining presence which is now woven into the fibers of your own clothing–
does that scent of that person who is now no longer physically present…can that
remaining scent break your heart?

Maybe.

It might just  break your heart because you find yourself holding on tightly to your
own piece of clothing…burying your face deeply into that shirt while breathing
in as if your very life depended on it…trying desperately to catch a last lingering reminder
that love was indeed present despite a now empty and silent distance.

And so what about homework?
Can homework break your heart?

Homework…
There was a time when certain types of homework nearly broke my will…
but school work never broke my heart.

Yet what I am discovering however, is that the homework of learning how to accept Grace, allowing Grace to penetrate
into what was once perceived to be an undeserving soul…Grace that yearns to pry open and
break down one’s ancient walls…walls built to be impenetrable…yet walls that must succumb to Grace that is now being offered freely and graciously from one to another…is a lifeline that I never knew how badly I needed.

And so it now seems that that simple act of an offering of Grace can indeed break one’s heart…and more often than not, that breaking is agonizingly painful, yet it is also something most necessary if one hopes to push through this thing we call life.

And so my hope for you is that you too may also be fortunate—fortunate to find and to receive this gift known as Grace…

Yes, it might just break your heart, but that breaking just might be the only way you can find it and hold on to it.

“I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew. I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.”
Hermann Hesse

goodness and guides

“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God
for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.”

St. Gianna Molla


(yellow roses / Julie Cook / 2021)

“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

discipline and a holy will

“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


(a rose still covered by the morning dew / Julie Cook / 2021)

“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

“Opening Shots Against the New Paganism”

“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.”
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


(political cartoon from the Roanoke Times)

As time allows, I’m still making slight headway in the book
THE LION OF MÜNSTER–The Bishop Who Roared Against The Nazis
by Daniel Utrecht of the Oratory

If curious, here’s a link to the previous post written about this
daring Catholic prelate who took a loud vocal stand defying
Adolph Hitler and his Nazi madness.

THE LION OF MÜNSTER…we need more lions

So yesterday, picking up the book, I read the following passage
from the chapter entitled the same title of this post…
and it was like a sledgehammer hit me on the head—

I’ll let you read it, allowing you to digest this snapshot of
German schools along with The Catholic Church and how each one
clashed with the controlling policies of Nazi
Germany… and I wonder…does it sound familiar??

Bishop von Galen was consecrated and enthroned on October 28,1933.
Just over a week later, On November 6, he wrote a private letter to
the superintendent of schools for Münster.
Schools had received lesson plans “in connection with All Souls’ Day”
to teach “the theory of heredity and ethnology”
in all subjects. The details leave no doubt as to what this phrase meant:
hatred of the Jews.

“Very clearly, the Nazis meant to convince everyone, especially the young
of German racial superiority.

Thus in a letter written to the school superintendent to express his disagreement
to such racial and pagan theories, Bishop August Galen began his open disdain of
Hitler and his New World Order:

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching and
having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their
own likings and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander
into myths (vv.3-4, RSV),
he commented that “a Bishop dare not keep silent if false teachings
and unbelief raise their head, if what is warned of in the letter
to Titus comes to pass:
‘A word of truth is so much more necessary when enemies of religion,
such as we now see, are fighting not only against this or that
teaching of the Church but deny or falsify the very foundations
of religion itself and the most holy mysteries of revelation”‘

“Whoever undermines or destroys man’s faith in God attacks
the very foundations of religion and the whole of culture.”

Critical Race Theory…hummmm

refuge found in a memory (re-run number 3–it’s that good)

“The Lord manifests Himself to those who stop for some time in
peace and humility of heart.
If you look in murky and turbulent waters,
you cannot see the reflection of your face.
If you want to see the face of Christ,
stop and collect your thoughts in silence,
and close the door of your soul to the noise of external things.”

St. Anthony of Padua


(a statue to St.Anthony in the small chapel of St. Blasiuskirche,
Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

When I first read the quote that I’ve opted to use today,
I was immediately transported to a different time and place…
and to a previous post.

It was 2012 and I had recently retired from 31 years of teaching—
I was also preparing
to embark on an arduous journey with my elderly father…
how arduous, I had no idea,
but I knew life was changing and I knew it was not going to
be for the better.

My aunt, another friend, and I had all embarked on a bit of an adventure
during that fall of 2012.
It was a wonderful trip which holds some very precious and
treasured memories…especially since my aunt is no longer with us.

Yet during that trip, there were a couple of very special moments
that have stayed near to my heart…
and one thing I’ve learned over the years,
adventures offer lessons.

And so I looked back at that original post and found
that the serenity that I had experienced
during that adventure, and later in the writing of the post,
I realized that I greatly needed to relive, as well as share, again,
that peaceful gratitude I found one quiet fall afternoon.

And so here is that post from October 2013 about a warm fall
afternoon in 2012 in Salzburg, Austria:

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

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…
her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly,
bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before
the small statue.

I once heard it put that religion was just something for
old women and children.
Pity that…as that must mean that older women and children are the only ones
who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful,
and too arrogant to truly understand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A re-visited prayer

(dragonfly, Troup Co. Georgia / Julie Cook/ 2018)

“Our Father…”

You made me and chose me before time, to love you, to serve you,
and adore you; to long for your voice, to recognize you,
to return home to you. For you are the Father, prodigal in your love,
who runs forward to meet us as we kneel to pray.

“Who art in heaven…”

Give me a vision, Lord, of the saints in heaven, of the community in heaven,
of the joy of heaven, so that I may be drawn out of this dull world into the light
of all that is real.

“Hallowed be thy name…”

Lord, may your name be holy in my mouth, holy in my heart, holy on my lips,
holy in my life; “I am that I am”, “the lamb that was slain”.
Lord, may the words that describe you sanctify the lips of all who
call upon you.

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done…”

Let our hearts and our words be shaped by yours.

“On earth as it is in heaven…”

Lord, call those you have chosen on earth to follow you and to live your life,
to make space for you, for the earth is in the hands of your enemy,
it is in the hands of the ruler of this world.
Help us repulse him with your authority, and in your name, and by your power,
to reclaim earth for heaven.

“Give us this day our daily bread…”

For Jesus is the bread of life. Help us feed on Jesus in the word of the Gospels,
by the presence of the Holy Spirit, in the holy and blessed sacrament.
Give us, Lord, all that we need to feed on you in Christ our saviour.

“And forgive us our trespasses…”

Both those sins that we know about and those sins we have not seen.
Cleanse us, and forgive us, and renew us,
Lord, and wash away all that stands between your love,
and your mercy, and our wounded hearts.

“As we forgive those who trespass against us…”

As we allow your kindness and your goodness to overflow and to free
those we hold in
anger and unforgiveness.

“And lead us not into temptation”

For we are weak-willed.
We are blind and intemperate.
We have very little strength of our own.

“But deliver us from evil.”

For he (the evil one) prowls around us like a lion seeking whom he may devour,
insinuating words into our mind, laying traps of false desire in front of us,
whispering untruths into our heart. Deliver us, Lord, from all evil,
and from the snares the devil sets for us.

From the Ashenden Daily Office:
https://ashenden.org/2018/07/16/our-father-who-art-in-heaven-an-extended-prayer/

faith, truth and loving God

“God writes his name on the soul of every man.”
Venerable Fulton Sheen


(Cades Cove / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises
to the contemplation of truth;
and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word,
to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God,
men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

Pope St. John Paul II