simple and vulnerable… tiny and small

“He who carries God in his heart bears heaven with him
wherever he goes.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola


(julie cook / 2013)

While it is the loudest, the brightest and the biggest that currently vies desperately
for attention…

A culture dares to scream out to all who give ear…that bigger is better…
and that even bigger is better still…

It is a time when more equates to satisfaction and it is only in fullness where true
happiness will be found…

Yet it is also oddly a time when more is never truly enough…and the full
are never contently satiated…

It is a time of glaring sensory overload…
when even in sleep a brain is unable to find rest…

Yet Omnipotence continues to seek out the lowly,
capturing the attention of a world gone mad.

A reminder is currently proclaimed…
that it was but a baby who entered the world, humble and meek, who would
in turn, be King.

It was the simple and the vulnerable, the tiny and small, who stopped the world from
spinning…but for the briefest of moments.

Where have all those prophets of old now gone?
Those voices who foretold the glories of Salvation?

Where are those who defied the world while proclaiming both Hope and Peace?

Rest assured, we are told, they have not gone far from view.

They are still very much amongst us.
Walking tiny and small between the giants of this land

They are quieter than the oh so loud and prideful self-consumed…

They are the ones who stop, lingering long enough to listen…those who
will hear the baby’s cry while standing ever so still…

“Write:
I am Thrice Holy, and I detest the smallest sin.
I cannot love a soul which is stained with sin; but when it repents,
there is no limit to My generosity toward it.
My mercy embraces and justifies it.
With My mercy, I pursue sinners along all their paths,
and My Heart rejoices when they return to Me.
I forget the bitterness with which they fed My Heart and rejoice at their return.
Tell sinners that no one shall escape My Hand; if they run away from My Merciful Heart,
they will fall into My Just Hands.
Tell sinners that I am always waiting for them,
that I listen intently to the beating of their heart . . .
when will it beat for Me?”
St. Maria Faustina
excerpt from The Diary of St Maria Faustina

“Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, a simple, uneducated, young Polish nun receives
a special call.
Jesus tells her, “I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world.
I do not want to punish mankind, but I desire to heal it,
pressing it to My merciful Heart.”

Jesus also tells her to record His message of mercy in a diary:
“You are the secretary of My Mercy. I have chosen you for that office in this and the next life.”
These words of Jesus are found in the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska,
which chronicles Sr. Faustina’s great experience of Divine Mercy in her soul and her mission
to share that mercy with the world.

In the Diary, this woman mystic’s childlike trust, simplicity,
and intimacy with Jesus will stir your heart and soul Her spiritual insights will
surprise and reward you.
“Only love has meaning,” she writes.
“It raises up our smallest actions into infinity.”
(The Catholic Company)

Sister Faustina was a young, uneducated nun in a convent of the Congregation of
Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Poland during the 1930s.
She came from a poor family that struggled during the years of World War I.
She had only three years of simple education,
so hers were the humblest tasks in the convent, usually in the kitchen or garden.
However, she received extraordinary revelations — or messages — from our Lord Jesus.
Jesus asked Sr. Faustina to record these experiences, which she compiled into notebooks.
These notebooks are known today as the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska,
and the words contained within are God’s loving message of Divine Mercy.

“Though the Divine Mercy message is not new to the teachings of the Church,
Sr. Faustina’s Diary sparked a great movement,
and a strong and significant focus on the mercy of Christ.
Saint John Paul II canonized Sr. Faustina in 2000 making her the
“first saint of the new millennium.”
Speaking of Sr. Faustina and the importance of the message contained in her Diary,
the Pope calls her “the great apostle of Divine Mercy in our time.”
thedivinemercy.org

there’s a shadow…..

“There is strong shadow where there is much light.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


(Lorenzo Costa / 1490 / Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, France)

Birth usually brings with it a great deal of joy, expectation as well as a fair share
of anticipation…
Yet in some rare instances, there is sadly a presence of foreboding.
As in something troublesome is looming while the expected state of gladness is not
entirely free of worry.

A feeling of something, yet not quite known or understood….just a sense.

For it is both anticipation and foreboding to which we, the faithful, must now look.

Never mind that as much as we may prefer to simply bask in the glory of the news of
this happy and tender moment, we are reminded that a shadow is constantly present.

Anticipation: a prior action that takes into account or forestalls a later action
b the act of looking forward; especially : pleasurable expectation

Forbode: to have an inward conviction of (something, such as a coming ill or misfortune)

Looking at this particular image of the Nativity, painted by the Italian artist Lorenzo Costa, I am drawn to the expression on Joseph’s face.
Should there not be a smile?
What of an assumed expression of happiness and even pride
in the birth of this new child?

Yet instead of exultation and happiness,
those emotions are replaced by an expression of sadness, perhaps even sorrow.
There is a resignation of something greater than….
greater than we the viewer are privy to.

Mary’s eyes also allude to something other than jubilation over the birth of this
child of hers.
There is a feeling of the resolute hiding behind a prayerful countenance.

And even the child himself…resigned.

And where we have spent the past month or longer reveling in all things Christmas…
with the culmination of jubilation coming about on Christmas Day…
as the faithful marked, once again, the birth of the Christ Child….
there remains a shadow….an ominous foreboding shadow.

For this particular birth brings with it more than the joy to be experienced at the birth of a child….for this child, this glad tiding, is no mere child….

Eight day’s following the birth and the mysterious visits of strangers, both meek and
grand, the child was brought to the Temple, as religious custom dictated, to be
circumcised. And following which, also with custom, the time of the presentation, purification and sacrifice as required.

At this time a strange old man approached the young family.
Mary drew the child close to her breast as the stranger continued coming closer, arms open wide, babbling and now reaching for the babe.

But there was something oddly familiar in the way this man was speaking, something that
moved Mary to volunteer the baby, with now her own outstretched arms,
giving up her child just as she would eventually have to offer up her son for
the salvation of all mankind…

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.
Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother,
“This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise.
He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.
As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Luke 2:29-35

A shadow draws across the jubilation…..

Today is big

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.
C.S. Lewis
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(Fireworks in the night sky / Assisi, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

Today is big…really big…
But there’s no time to chat…
Much preparations, cooking, cleaning, anticipating….
Just know that today is joyous, spectacular and a hugely big kind of day!!!
and I’ll be filling you in soon…..

They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

Psalm 145:7

No getting around it

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born,
and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

― Mark Twain

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the
intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body,
but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke,
thoroughly used up, totally worn out,
and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

― Hunter S. Thompson

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(image of Christ crucified, Rapperswill Polish Museum, Rapperswill, Switzerland / Julie Cook / 2012)

Death…
There is no getting around it.
No bailing out.
No avoidance.
No free pass.

It is the proverbial truism…
Death…
and of course those blasted taxes.

It comes to all of us, at some point in our lives…
Be it tragically, prematurely or thankfully…
One thing is certain, it will come.

Driving home from the store this afternoon I drove past a cemetery with a freshly dug grave
close to my line of sight.
Having recently buried my father-n-law, then having rushed a feeble dad this week in for IVs as he’s gotten himself in a dangerous predicament, death has been a frequent thought.

Death is certainly disrupting.
It disrupts obviously the one who it just whisked away…
and it disrupts those who are now without the one Death so rudely, or thankfully, took away.

Picking up the pieces is, more times than not, an emotional nightmare.
I’ve done my share of picking up and I’ve not much cared for it.
But haven’t we all….

There is such a finality to it all.
No reruns, no redos, no getting back.
It’s a done and done sort of deal.

It’s the ultimate in being robbed or stolen from…
And I don’t like that.

Yet if given the option of living forever, I would politely decline.

For life is hard.

Oh don’t get me wrong, Life is grand as well,
but overall, it can be hard.

Yet I feel an odd sense when pondering death…
something I really don’t like pondering…
as in, I’d rather not think about it.

I don’t like thinking about being separated from those I love…
Me from them and them from me.
Of things moving merrily along without me.
I would be so sad.
Yet is that not our ego…thinking we just need to be here, in the thick of it all…
Or fretting over what we might just miss…

And then there is the wondering of exactly where might I be headed.
Up, down, all around….

I like to think I’m headed in the right direction…
Being a follower of the Resurrected Christ.
Having confessed, and confessed some more, those egregious actions and sins of mine…
and then trusting in God’s promise and Holy word…

Yet what human, no matter how much they profess, claim, proclaim and believe…
isn’t plagued by questions?
If you’re not, nor haven’t been, your’e a far better person than I…

Yet I do know that the Prince of Darkness loves to whisper in the ear of the faithful
all sorts of gobbledygook, lies, half truths and falsehoods…
Inserting and sowing doubts, worry and fretting wherever the ground seems fertile.

Then I worry about being alone…
as in left alone
Not in the book series but rather here by myself all alone…
I don’t like that.

Yes there is indeed lots to ponder when Death happens upon our door…

Do you remember when you first learned to swim?
I almost drowned at the age of 5 during that process
but that is not my point here….the point is remembering the process.

Chances are you stood on the edge of the pool or on the boat dock
or at the edge of the lake or up on the sand at the beach…
A parent, or older trusted individual, was below (or standing in the surf)
treading almost effortlessly in the water, arms out stretched, waiting for you
while they coaxed, encouraged, implored or even pleaded with you to jump…
waiting patiently for you to come to them….to their strong open arms…

It was an overwhelming feeling.

Big and deep, murky or clear, cold or warm, the vast body of water waited along with a loved one.
There was a bit of excitement, of wonderment, a sense of mounting adventure.
Yet there were also the nerves, the worry, the anxiety, the predisposed need for survival percolating upward from some deep recess of your hypothalamus (that part of the brain responsible for fight or flight).
The internal struggle of should I or shouldn’t I was raging in the span of just a few minutes.

Some of us may have needed to run through this routine a couple of times before working up our nerve or building our trust.
We may have had to run to mom, or someone perched on dry land who could reassure us that it was going to be ok.
We’d work that nerve up again, and again…facing that great challenge,
all the while knowing that we weren’t really going this alone because there was that person who wanted to love us and protect us, who was waiting for us in that water…

Learning to swim is not just something done for fun…
it is a true life survival skill.
A skill our parents and loved ones want to instill in us.
There is the benefit of swimming for fun and pleasure, but don’t let that fool you, it is a survival skill plain and simple.

I kind of like to think Death will be a lot like learning to swim.
There are the nerves and the trepidation.
The fear of the unknown.
But then we see Jesus, with His arms outstretched.
I see the wounds in His hands as He stretches out His arms towards me…
There is peace in His eyes…
He voice is calm as He beckons…

It’s going to be ok,” he reassures…
I’ve already done this, so don’t you worry…..”

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
John 14:1-4

The Shadows of our Illusions

If time is not real, then the dividing line between this world and eternity, between suffering and bliss, between good and evil, is also an illusion.
Herman Hesse

Progress is not an illusion, it happens, but it is slow and invariably disappointing.
George Orwell

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(a western setting sun reflected from one of the many skyscrapers on the Nashville skyline / Nashville, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Nashville skyline at dusk / Nashville, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

Man creates, builds and constructs.
Why?
Because he can.
Always bigger, always taller, always grander. . .
Why?
Because he wants to be bigger, taller and grander than the next guy. . .
Endlessly seeking that which is exquisite, beautiful and spectacular. . .
Why?
Because he looks to fulfill a longing. . .
For what is it that man so longs. . .?
Man longs to fill a void. . .
An emptiness of that which is greater than man himself. . .
A void of that which is Divine
Why is that?
Could it because man longs for that part within his being that is open, unfulfilled and yearning for something which he simply cannot recognize as greater than himself. . .
and so he makes, he creates, he builds, he looks, he longs. . .

The Great Disturbance of Our Illusion
The idea that there is something eternal and infinite makes our souls anxious in their mortality.
They want to reach beyond themselves to immortality;
they themselves want to be immortal but know not where to begin. . .
Out of this disquiet of the soul have come the mighty works of philosophy and art:
The systems of Plato and Hegel, the Adam of Michelangelo,
the quartets and symphonies of Beethoven, the Gothic cathedrals,
the paintings of Rembrandt, and the Faust and Prometheus of Goethe.
They were all overpowered by the idea of something eternal and immortal. . .
At the same time, the most grandiose and delicate of all human
attempts to strive for the eternal out of the heart’s anxiety and restlessness is religion. . .
Human beings have found the way to light, to joy, to eternity.
The human race could proudly point to the flourishing of its spirit,
were it not for one thing namely, that God is God and grace is grace (Romans 11:6).
Here comes the great disturbance of our illusions and our blessed culture, the disturbance that God himself causes and that is made graphic in the old myth of the tower of Babel. Our way to the eternal was interrupted, and with our philosophy and art, our morality and religion, we fall into the depths from which we came. For another way had penned up, the way of God to humanity.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Barcelona, Berlin, Amerika 1928-1931
I Want to Live These Days with You

Small blessings

“When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.” C.S. Lewis

“Those born to wealth, and who have the means of gratifying every wish, know not what is the real happiness of life, just as those who have been tossed on the stormy waters of the ocean on a few frail planks can alone realize the blessings of fair weather.”
Alexandre Dumas

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(the tiniest of bees, with swollen pollen pouches on each leg, graces a coneflower / Julie Cook / 2015)

Should any received blessing be perceived as being “less than” based upon its size or stature?

In order to qualify as a blessing,
must something be so large, so grand, so luxurious. . .
that we fall into it as if we were falling onto the softest,
most plush, most decant goose down bedding?

Or

Can something so tiny, so small, so demure,
such that it can be missed by the single blink of an eye,
be considered any less bountiful a blessing because it is just that. . .
small, tiny and perhaps considered minuscule?

Are we conditioned for the great and grand?
Are we perhaps too expectant that our expectations should soar upward to lofty heights,
so much so that we are prone to brush off the small as meaningless and insignificant?
Missing what may be the greatest moment of our day. . .

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

Beyond

Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.
Voltaire

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(the changing glimpse of beyond before the storm / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s all beyond us really. . .
As in elsewhere
As in bigger, greater, grander
As in far away and much more than ourselves.

What of this place, Beyond?
That which is beyond the trees,
The clouds,
The sky. . .

What is this that is Beyond?

Is it what is there and simply not here?
That which is further rather than closer
That which is big not small?

Those whose sights remain small and inward
may never know the vast richness of Beyond.
Those whose heads are fixed ever downward,
Whose worlds are stationary and static,
Will not know Beyond

Beyond is more. . .
There is endlessness in Beyond

Humankind is not endless, we rather, are finite
As in consisting of a beginning and an ending
As in small and limited
For even our time is limited, as well as unknown

What of this Beyond?
Where does it start?
Where does it end?

One must look upward,
Outward,
Forward. . .

For Beyond is certainly in front, not behind
Beyond is not beneath nor under

Beyond is beyond touch,
Reach
Comprehension

Beyond is not of this time,
Your time or mine.
It goes much further than time
Much further than past or present
It is actually closer to future.

Beyond is beyond what is known
Beyond is beyond this place,
this space,
this dimension

Beyond is. . .simply. . .

Beyond

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“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