Sacred

Love is a sacred reserve of energy;
it is like the blood of spiritual evolution.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


(generations of sacred texts / Julie Cook / 2017)

What makes something sacred?

Something that is to be held in reverence,
passed from one generation to another?
What is it that makes something so dear, so esteemed, so important,
albeit within the confines of a family,
that it becomes a treasure and a life line linking one individual to another?

Deep and heavy thoughts as I slowly begin to purge, pack, relocate
sort, discard, save and add to my own niche of life those things that
were once others as I labors to merge them now as mine.

A frayed small ribbon peeks out from atop a long ago repaired cloth bound,
oh so frail, little black book.
The homemade cover tenderly stitched in order to preserve and protect someone’s
sacred treasure

A hymnal whose first page is now page 7.

As to whose hymnal, which denomination, how old…
Who knows…
But in the family, on someone’s side, it has obviously weathered.

Hymn 527 sounds very much like my beloved 345
A hymn that is as soothing as a beloved’s rhythmic cadence of breath.

“The King of Love My Shepherd Is” has been described as perhaps the most beautiful
of all the countless versions of the 23rd Psalm.

The Tune St. Columba is named for the Irish saint who
“carried the torch of Irish Christianity to Scotland”
(and who has the dubious distinction of being the first to report a sighting of
the Loch Ness monster, in 546).
The tune is one of the Irish melodies collected by George Petrie (1789-1866)
and given in Charles Villers Stanford’s
“Complete Collection of Irish Music as noted by George Petrie,” in 1902.
There it is said to have been sung at the dedication of a chapel in the county
of Londonderry.
The association of the tune with this text,
and also its harmonization, are from “The English Hymnal,” 1906.

Excerpt: “Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worhip”

In a time of grave uncertainties..
both personally and globally…
A time of unprecedented growing rage and division.
May we each rest in the knowledge that we remain bound always to the Sacred….

Please enjoy this beautiful video…

The depravity of craziness

I don’t think that you can let the storms of life overwhelm you.
When you do that,
you are no better than the craziness that caused you to be under attack.

T. D. Jakes

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(blooming Japanese maple / Julie Cook / 2016)

Who among us, who is alive, breathing and kicking…
Isn’t scratching their heads in pure wonderment over
this growing maelstrom,
otherwise known to the world as…
the US Presidential Race…???

Firstly the word embarrassment comes to mind…

From the hateful exchanges between candidates…
(the he said, she said, you said, they said…no they didn’ts)

From the loss of civility among educated adults…
(who actually says this kind of stuff…in private let alone in public…
and is actually proud of it??)

From the loss of civility among adults…
(just look at any campaign rally to see grownups, and not so grownups, behaving badly…
very, very badly)

From the hateful remarks by the candidates about the voters…
(last I checked people were voting and voting in a big way for these people so that alone should stand by
itself as some sort of testament to the condition, perceived or real, by the voters of this country—or have we and the candidates forgotten that the voters do matter and should not be perceived as idiots…
as the candidates and the news media assume us all to be…)

From the ridiculous questions asked by the news media of the candidates…
(“did you have an affair…” Not rather the more pressing or pertinent or real questions
such as “what will you do for the economy, what will you do about ISIS, how will you help heal this hurting Nation…
Sadly it is rather the gossipy and salacious…
that scintillating dribble of questions worthy only of tabloid fodder)

From the globally wide laughing joke we’ve become…
(the world now sits dumbfounded, as do I, watching this mockery of our nation’s highest office…)

From the endless sea of mindless freak show spectacles debates…
(how many times and or ways can a person say the same thing??
Or perhaps it’s really just a way to watch them all slowly continuing putting their shoes
and high heels into their mouthes….)

To the frightening reality that one of these 4 individuals (the 5th is just hanging around,
or so we are told) will be the next President of the United States of America—
(As we may note that the word “united” is becoming a bit iffy)

Becoming the President of the United States is a big deal.
It is a VERY big deal.
Yet I fear these 4 (or 5 if you’re still counting) get it.
I don’t think the news media gets it.
I don’t think this country gets it…

Or maybe that’s it…
Maybe the Country no longer cares…
As in it has all merely swirled into a giant mess of pure political anarchy—
as if politics hadn’t been bad enough,
it’s now turned sadly into more of a circus then an organized process.

A free for all…
An all out, knock down, drag out…
fists flying…
name calling…
every dirty trick in the book…
MESS…

All the while as our media, our entertainment industry and our economic machines wrangle with every sneaky hook and crook maneuver to steer the election into their own personal favored corner…
forget the vote of the democratic little person that makes this country what it is…

I realize that politics and voting and governments have never been as they should be–
On the up and up,
models of decorum
the pinnacle of civility
a seamless process
a one size fits all sort of business…

People are people…sadly
And they have been known to beg, borrow and steal…
Plus throw in a little bit of lying, demoralizing, swindling and scandalizing of one another…

But this year, I think most of us would sadly agree, it has fallen to an all time low—on all sides of the spectrum….

Such that I have very real and very grave concerns for this Nation as a whole…
Most folks my age and older do as well…
I think we call that hindsight.

Yet a fellow blogger and brother in Christ, Wally over on Truthinpalmyra.wordpress.com posted a wonderful little placard yesterday that stated:
No matter who is president, Jesus is King…

I find great comfort in knowing that as the world around me oozes away, lost unto itself and to its own depraved craziness…
Jesus Christ remains the Resurrected Lord of All….

All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown him Lord of all.

Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race,
ye ransomed from the fall,
hail him who saves you by his grace,
and crown him Lord of all.
Hail him who saves you by his grace,
and crown him Lord of all.

Sinners, whose love can ne’er forget
the wormwood and the gall,
go spread your trophies at his feet,
and crown him Lord of all.
Go spread your trophies at his feet,
and crown him Lord of all.

Let every kindred, every tribe
on this terrestrial ball,
to him all majesty ascribe,
and crown him Lord of all.
To him all majesty ascribe,
and crown him Lord of all.

Crown him, ye martyrs of your God,
who from his altar call;
extol the Stem of Jesse’s Rod,
and crown him Lord of all.
Extol the Stem of Jesse’s Rod,
and crown him Lord of all.

O that with yonder sacred throng
we at his feet may fall!
We’ll join the everlasting song,
and crown him Lord of all.
We’ll join the everlasting song,
and crown him Lord of all.

All Hail The Power Of Jesus Name
words by Edward Perronet (1780)
Tune Coronation by Oliver Holden

An unlikely tale of unity

“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business;
we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

― Gwendolyn Brooks

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(American Beautyberry bush / Julie Cook / 2015)

Crown Him with many crowns. . .a much beloved and joyful hymn sung in any number of Catholic, Anglican and Protestant churches. How many of us, who have sung this hymn during any given Sunday service, have known that this hymn is as much about Biblical scripture as it is about Christian unity?

Catholics and Protestants have long suffered through a strained relationship of both love and hate–a tenuous relationship that has existed ever since Martin Luther set loose a reformation with all that nailing to a door business.
It’s been a tug of war between acceptance and rejection ever since 1517.

There has been blood shed, heads chopped off, houses of worship destroyed, statues crushed, books burned, the faithful tortured, confessions coerced, beliefs recanted, prayers cursed. . .
all in the name of the proper observance for the Christian faith.

During one such tumultuous time period in this long suffering relationship, a hymn was composed by two vastly different men—Matthew Bridges a Catholic convert and Godfrey Thring an Anglican clergyman. The composition however was not originally intended as a joint effort in unity but rather, in actuality, was a conglomeration of equal time for each opposing team.

In the 1800s there was great tension between the Catholic and Anglican churches. Crown Him with Many Crowns is a wonderful example of how God takes the troubles of man and turns them around for good (Romans 8:28).The song was originally penned in 1851 by Matthew Bridges (1800-1894), who once wrote a book condemning Roman Catholic theology, and then later converted to Catholicism. Bridges wrote six stanzas, based upon Revelations 19:12, “…and on His head were many crowns.”

Godfrey Thring (1823-1903) was a devout Anglican clergyman who was concerned that this popular hymn was allowing Catholic theology to be sung by protestant congregations. And so he wrote six new verses.

The 12 stanzas have been mixed and matched down through the years.
(excerpt taken from Sharefaith.com)

So as we stand in our collective churches this Sunday morning, lifting our voices skyward, may we all be mindful that our faith in the resurrected Son of the Most High God, is the tie that binds us as brothers and sisters–bound by the blood of Christ—one belief, one faith, one Savior, one voice lifting to Heaven. . .

No east nor west

Oh, East is East, and West is West,
and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently
at God’s great Judgment Seat;

But there is neither East nor West,
Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face,
though they come from the ends of the earth!

Rudyard Kipling “The Ballad of East and West

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(a tiny skipper and honey bee share the same patch of sedum / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(a tiny skipper and honey bee share the same patch of sedum / Julie Cook / 2015)

Having been raised in the Episcopal Church, attending a very large
southern gothic Cathedral, I relished in the rich hymns which would
echo off the seemingly cold limestone walls each Sunday morning.
Resoundingly joyous, as well as seriously solemn, proclamations
of faith carried aloft by both grand organ, choir and congregation would
ring out triumphantly each Sunday all those many years ago—
just as they do to this day.

It’s just that I no longer hear those hymns as I once did as I have long since moved away from my childhood home and church–having long since drifted away from the Episcopal Church.
Yet I know those hymns still ring true as that’s just a part of the strong tie that binds the faithful to the services of the various denominations of the Christian Church, most of which are steeped in rich traditional sacred music—despite the divisions and doctrinal changes, some things such as hymns, stand up to the rigorous test of time.

Every once in a while, for whatever reason, one of those beautiful melodies comes gently gliding back to the forefront of my thoughts and memories.
Oddly such was the case today.
I found myself mindlessly, or so it seemed, humming a vaguely familiar tune when it suddenly dawned on me what it was I was actually humming. . .In Christ there is no east or west, in Him no north or south, but one great fellowship throughout the whole wide earth. . .

A rather apt hymn given the current state of this overtly divided Nation, or rather make that World, of ours. . .

I did a bit of digging regarding the origin of the hymn—was there some sort of lesson God had to offer me as it seemed He graciously brought the tune and memory into focus this oh so average summer day.

The hymn was written in 1908 by William J. Dunkerly, aka John Oxenham, an English businessman turned poet, journalist and author. The poem / hymn was roughly based off of a story written by Rudyard Kipling nine years prior–The Ballad of East and West. A story steeped in the clashes and division of cultures found in Colonial India.

Oxenham’s hymn speaks not to the divisions and clashes of mankind and culture but rather to the unity—the unity of all humankind which can only be found in Jesus Christ.

And that’s the thing. . .there will be no unity of north and south nor east and west nor all that which falls within, not until man (and that word is a collective word which represents all humankind) can put himself (and yes that includes herself) under the authority of Jesus Christ.

Sadly ego, pride and that of personal agendas take precedence in the heart of man, and woman, as mankind decides to be his or her own god. Selfishly putting self, personal agendas and anything else for that matter ahead of a God who asks for a heart of submission–for all He asks is that we follow Him (Matthew 4:19)—yet as human beings stubbornly demonstrate time and time again they prefer to lead rather than follow.

The irony found in this need for submission is that so many folks view it as yielding to a state of being “less than” or of being held a prisoner by a grand puppet master. What they don’t understand is that within that submission, yielding, bending of self comes the gift of freedom and life eternal.
It is not a yielding to the dogmatic power of control exerted by some maniacal psychopath or deranged dictator, but rather to that of a benevolent and loving Creator who longs to gather His children close. Such following leads to the offering of self, not to self, but rather to the betterment of all mankind. . .

However I suppose the majority of this squabbling world of ours just prefers the agenda of self which simply leads to a twain that shall never meet and the inevitable silence of death. . .

In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.

In Him shall true hearts everywhere
Their high communion find;
His service is the golden cord,
Close binding humankind.

Join hands, then, members of the faith,
Whatever your race may be!
Who serves my Father as His child
Is surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both East and West,
In Him meet North and South;
All Christly souls are one in Him
Throughout the whole wide earth.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28

(and for anyone who is interested in hymns, their origins, their history, their usage. . .there happens to be a fellow blogger, Robert Cottrill, who has a site dedicated to just that very thing–
http://wordwisehymns.com )

Song of Triumph

“We thank Him less by words than by the serene happiness of silent acceptance. It is our emptiness in the presence of His reality, our silence in the presence of His infinitely rich silence, our joy in the bosom of the serene darkness in which His light holds us absorbed, it is all this that praises Him.”
― Thomas Merton

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou – Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.

Emily Bronte

Eternal truth, eternal righteousness, eternal love; these only can triumph, for these only can endure.
Joseph Barber Lightfoot

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(the first butterfly of the new season, a Tiger swallowtail amongst the quince / Julie Cook / 2015)

We greet this brand new morning not as we normally would every other morning of every other day. . .
But rather, this new morning, this new day, is greeted with great expectancy. . .
We greet this morning not simply as a new day through old cloudily lenses but rather we greet this morning with the clarity of new sight.
For today marks the beginning of a day of transformation.

It is as if we, you and I, have emerged under the wing of the Victor from deep within the sealed dark and dusty tomb of Death
Eyes now clear, wide opened and focused are anxious to behold the brilliance of a new dawn.

And we greet this new morning with a song. . .
We sing our song in the face of all that was broken, damaged and dying.
For ours is the song of hope, of life and of Love

For what was fragmented, splintered, lost and laid in a tomb to rot has been found, recovered, repaired and made brilliantly whole.
For this new morning has been paved with wholeness. . .
Life indeed is now transformed
As we triumphantly sing this new morning’s song of a clear and brilliant Alleluia

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
The strife is o’er, the battle done,
the victory of life is won;
the song of triumph has begun.
Alleluia!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
The powers of death have done their worst,
but Christ their legions hath dispersed:
let shout of holy joy outburst.
Alleluia!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
The three sad days are quickly sped,
he rises glorious from the dead:
all glory to our risen Head!
Alleluia!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
He closed the yawning gates of hell,
the bars from heaven’s high portals fell;
let hymns of praise his triumphs tell!
Alleluia!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Lord! by the stripes which wounded thee,
from death’s dread sting thy servants free,
that we may live and sing to thee.
Alleluia!

Words Symphonia Sirenum Selectarum, 1695
first three lines adapted from Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestria, 1525-1594
arranged by William Henry Monk, 1823-1889

Blackbirds

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(Blackbirds sitting on a wire, Julie Cook / 2014)

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the word

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day.

Eleanor Farjeon

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(Blackbirds sitting on a wire, Julie Cook / 2014)

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(Blackbirds sitting on a wire, Julie Cook / 2014)

Morning Has Broken is a Christian Hymn first published in 1931—It was written by the English author Eleanor Farjeon and is set to a traditional Scotch / Gaelic tune known as Bunessan (of which is the name of a small Scottish village). The “tune” was originally used in an earlier hymnal dating to the year 1900 which contained a different set of lyrics. Yet it’s the version sung by Cat Stevens which is likely to be the most familiar to a listener’s ear.

Cat Stevens, a British born musician whose father was Greek Orthodox and mother a Swedish Baptist was educated at a private Catholic School. He did not excel in school but had a penchant for art and music. During his lifetime Cat Stevens had two close encounters with death–the first being when he contracted Tuberculosis and the second when he nearly drowned while swimming off the coast of Malibu.

In 1977 Cat Stevens left behind the life he had known as a musician and song writer when he converted to Islam. Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, sold off all of his guitars in 1979 and left his once popular music behind, dedicating his life to humanitarian work as well as education within the Muslim community. He has since returned to the music industry under the single name of Yusuf with his interests steeped in his Muslim faith. He still lives in London.

Eleanor Farjeon was born in London in 1881. She, like her father, was a very successful British author best known for her children’s stories but was also an accomplished poet, playwright, composer of musicals as well as being noted for writing for several British magazine publications. She was considered somewhat shy as a child and rather “bookish” as well as being a bit immature which lasted well into adulthood. She was homeschooled and also suffered from poor health during childhood. She never married but had several youthful infatuations with two different married men–she then had two different long term relationships with different men spanning the bulk of her adult life. She also ran in a rather prestigious literary circle consisting of D.H. Lawrence, Robert Frost and Edward Thomas.

Eleanor began writing at the age of 5 eventually learning to use her father’s typewriter by the age of 7. She possessed a vivid imagination which successfully fed into her prolific writing all throughout her life. During her lengthy career, Eleanor received several notable literary awards for her children’s stories including the Carnegie Medal as well as the Hans Christian Anderson Medal. In memory of her outstanding work and accomplishments, The Children’s Book Circle currently awards the Eleanor Farjeon Medal to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in the field of Children’s books.
She converted to Catholicism in 1955, 10 years prior to her death in 1965.

I find it both interesting and perhaps even a little odd of the correlation which can exist between a beloved hymn and with those who first “created” it and then proceeded to make it “famous” —
What an odd amalgamation of lives and talents of two very different individuals who, decades apart, each contributed mightily to the longevity of a song we all find familiar, melodic, soothing as well as possessing the ability of transporting those who either sing, listen or do both to a place of Spiritual peace.

What perhaps might you do, or write or think today that may one day be touched by another in order to create something greater than you ever thought possible. . .

I’ll fly away

“Every bird that flies has the thread of the infinite in its claw.”
Victor Hugo,

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(crows taking off from the field / Julie Cook / 2014)

Watching two crows waddle about on a cold January morning, on their never ending quest for something to eat, only to have them spooked by who knows what— I was reminded of a very old and very southern song—“I’ll Fly Away”

Having been raised in the Episcopal / Anglican Church, with it’s rich ancient sounds and music, songs such as I’ll Fly Away were never a part of my Church experience much less on my radar. . . However it is that part about being raised in the South which leads itself to my being very familiar with this “other” type of church music—music simply known as Gospel Music.

I am certainly no aficionado of music and truthfully I prefer, as well as love and adore, the more ancient hymns of an ancient church— but I would not be true to my southern raising if I totally eschewed the type of music which is rooted as deep as it can go into this very deep South I call home.

Music is as much a part of our lives here in the South as it is a part of our history—it is who we are as a people. So much so that it has transcended an entire Nation, offering the world a unique sound that is truly all our own.

Much of the Gospel music echoing out of this sun-baked ground, found only here in these Southern states, is steeped in the histories of a wide variety of people— all of whom made their way to this area very long ago by either choice or coercion.

Whether it is the traditional music of the “Negro Spirituals”, whose history is mingled with the blood, sweat and tears of the cotton fields of long gone plantations–songs of faith and strength created by those brought here against their own wishes in order to tend the land of others—– or be it those of the melodic tragic stories and tales as told by an accented clannish people who fled the famine of another country, traveling across a vast ocean, only to settle within the “highlands”, as it were, of Appalachia— culture and music are each wedded and woven just as intricately as the kudzu and red dirt which both run deep and wide here in the South.

The “hymn” I’ll Fly Away was written by Albert E. Brumley in 1929. Need we be reminded of what transpired in this Country in 1929? Our fate that year was sealed on Wall Street as it, along with almost everything around this Nation of ours, crashed. Who living at that time most likely didn’t wish to “fly away”–as things, as a whole, were tragically bad for this Nation. Lives were shattered and changed forever. Dreams vanished over night. Hope was a lost commodity on an entire generation of people—so perhaps it was the desire of flying away, leaving those burdens of a very heavy and weary life behind, which most likely appealed to the masses.

It is claimed that the song I’ll Fly Away is the most widely recorded Gospel song in history. It has been taken and amended by not only Gospel singers, but those who sing Country, Bluegrass, Rock-a-billy, Rock, Christian, Jazz, Pop and even Rap. Most interesting that one song has had the ability of transcending such a wide variety of genres. Perhaps that speaks to the staying power of the lyrics themselves. Depending on who is currently singing, some of the lyrics may be added, subtracted or amended, but over all it is the enduring freeing gist of the song which remains the same—that of leaving behind the trials of life. . .oh to be freed, free as the bird who has just been released from a cage, soaring heavenward, all to the waiting arms of a loving Father—oh by and by. . .by and by.

So on this new day to a new week, don’t be surprised if at some point you too may find yourself wishing to just leave it all behind—however, just remember, don’t fly too high.

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To that home on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away oh glory
I’ll fly away (in the morning)
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

When the shadows of this life have gone
I’ll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly
I’ll fly away

Oh how glad and happy when we meet
I’ll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet
I’ll fly away

Just a few more weary days and then
I’ll fly away
To a land where joys will never end
I’ll fly away