winter’s shadows overpowered by Grace

“If the heart wanders or is distracted,
bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master’s presence.
And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back
and place it again in Our Lord’s presence, though it went away every time you
brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.”

St. Francis de Sales


(Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2020)


(Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2020)


(Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2020)

“This great power of grace over nature appears at first sight as unnatural,
for which reason nature strives against it and does not even wish to hear of the necessity
of penance and mortification. But the obligation of penance remains,
and precisely because of nature’s opposition,
it cannot be emphasized often enough or earnestly enough.
Softened, wounded nature, moreover, makes difficulties greater than they really are.
Grace does not wish to destroy nature, but only to elevate it,
that is, to drive out the evil that makes it sick and then to introduce a new and better life.
By taking away all that nature loves to its own detriment,
and thus wounding it in its innermost depth,
it at the same time pours such a healthful balsam into this wound that it is
a delight to be wounded in this way.
Ask the Saints if they have ever experienced any greater delight than in those moments
when they offered themselves, body and soul, as a victim to God…
Ask yourself if you have ever enjoyed a deeper or more genuine delight than when you
suppressed a violent desire of proud, angry nature, or performed any other act of
heroic mortification with the help of grace. If, then, grace could give the Saints
such a wonderful, superhuman and heroic courage as to elevate them above themselves
and make them lead an angelic life already in the flesh,
can it not enable you to live at least as a man, in harmony with your natural dignity,
and not as a slave of the flesh, of the passions, of your own will and opinion?”

Fr. Matthias J. Scheeben, p. 260
An Excerpt From
The Glories of Divine Grace:
A Fervent Exhortation to All to Preserve and to Grow in Sanctifying Grace

It is the winter of our discontent…may we seek contentment

“I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe,
but rather, I believe in order that I may understand.”

St. Anselm of Canterbury


(an early January morning / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Francis [de Sales] insists that true devotion must touch every area of our life.
True devotion is not just a matter of spiritual practices but of bringing all our life
under the lordship of Christ. Francis is known for his slogan:
‘Live, Jesus! Live, Jesus!’
What he means by this is an invitation to Jesus to ‘live and reign in our hearts
forever and ever’…
In other words, for Francis, to live the devout life is to reach the point in our love for God
and neighbor that we eagerly (‘carefully, frequently, and promptly’)
desire to do His will in all the various ways in which it is communicated to us:
in the duties of our state in life, in the objective teaching of God’s Word,
in opportunities and occasions presented to us, in response to our interior inspirations.”

Ralph Martin, p. 107
An Excerpt From
Fulfillment of All Desire

won by One who makes imperfection perfect

Satan has a kingdom here on earth.
It’s called the culture of death, but his kingdom has an expiration date.
That’s good news.
Jesus has a kingdom as well.
There is no expiration date.
It will last forever.
Remember, Church, we have been won by One.
The next time the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.

Jesse Romero
from The Devil in the City of Angels


(deer moss / Julie Cook/ 2020)

Do they desire to join me in thanksgiving when they hear how, by your gift,
I have come close to you, and do they pray for me when they hear
how I am held back by my own weight?

A brotherly mind will love in me what you teach to be lovable,
and will regret in me what you teach to be regrettable.

This is a mark of a Christian brother’s mind, not an outsider’s—
not that of ‘the sons of aliens whose mouth speaks vanity,
and their right hand is a right hand of iniquity’ (Ps. 143:7 f.).

A brotherly person rejoices on my account when he approves me,
but when he disapproves, he is loving me.

To such people I will reveal myself.
They will take heart from my good traits, and sigh with sadness at my bad ones.
My good points are instilled by you and are your gifts.
My bad points are my faults and your judgments on them.
Let them take heart from the one and regret the other.
Let both praise and tears ascend in your sight from brotherly hearts,
your censers. …
But you Lord…Make perfect my imperfections”

St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

on board and out dated

“Recent generations seem to consider ‘old-fashioned’ thinking as out-dated
and without place in the modern world.
I beg to differ.
After all, who has greater faith?
He who looks to and learns from the past, or the man who cares
not for consequence?”

Fennel Hudson, A Meaningful Life – Fennel’s Journal – No. 1


(a shirveled little pear / Julie Cook / 2014)

The other day I caught a fellow blogger’s post regarding the soon to be splitting of
the United Methodist Church over the issue of recognizing gay marriage as a
sanctified union and thus conducting said weddings.

And I took issue with some of his thoughts.

I didn’t immediately respond, as I wanted to think about my words,
but I knew I disagreed with his take on things.

According to a separate article I read regarding the split, things appear amicable in
the proposed negotiating of the soon to be un-united Methodist Church–
An amicable split might just border on being an oxymoron when talking about divisions
stemming from differing views over foundational doctrine…with everyone seeming to
be all good with the parting.

“The United Methodist Church has decided to divide over the issue of same-sex marriage.
This is not surprising, given the longstanding disagreements on this matter that have
afflicted the denomination.
The UMC has arranged the separation in a remarkably civil way:
The proposed solution, formulated by a committee of members drawn from both sides of the debate,
will (hopefully) avoid the rancor and distress and disputes about properties and pensions
that have marked other such denominational splits in recent times.

Carl R. Trueman

The blogger’s post, for which I took umbrage, mentioned that he had been reared in the
Methodist Church and was naturally troubled by the proposed split…

I think we’d all agree that “splits” are never the desired outcome.
We really do want to keep things united as one.
Or so it seems we once did.

Yet think of this…we began with what was known as the Latin West Church,
otherwise known as The Church of Rome.
Shortly thereafter, we had the Eastern Orthodox Church of, naturally, the East…

So splits seem to be in our nature because from those original two,
we have spiraled into countless denominations,
of which each feels as if they are the ones who’s gotten it right and all figured out…
but I digress.

This particular blogger wrote that other denominations had “come to terms” regarding
same-sex marriages and that scientific facts now showed that the Bible was outdated and
out of step with said scientific facts.
Homosexuality was prewired and not a choice and therefore the Church, big C,
needs to step up and get in step.

I read just a bit more before I had to close out the post and leave for an appointment
but I made a mental note that I wanted to go back to the post and eventually respond.

Well, a few days passed and I went back into my reader looking for the post.
It is no longer there or at least I couldn’t find it if it was.
I scrolled and scrolled but just couldn’t find it.
It was not a blog that I follow but a blog post that I had seen as a
re-post by another blogger.
Since I couldn’t remember the particular blog’s name from whence the post
in question had come from, I suppose it was not meant for me to get into a
tit for tat with another blogger…
Because that is pretty much what happens when we comment often to the contrary of
what someone else has written.

A war of words so to speak.
A small microcosm of what is ailing our entire Nation, but again, I digress.

And so I will briefly share my umbrage here…as in, you are now the lucky recipient.

Unequivocally, and to the contrary, most denominations are NOT on board with gay marriage—
hence why ‘splits’ have been taking place for nearly a decade.

My dear ol’ Episcopal Chruch comes to mind.

The thought of schisms in the Episcopal Church can be traced back to the ’70s
when the notion of allowing women into the priesthood first took flight.
There was an exodus then with communicants going to more traditional “Rite I”
sort of churches.

Next came gay clergy and gay marriages all intertwined.
We saw another exodus with the founding of Anglican Chruch in North America.
Hence the split from the more liberal Episcopal Chruch to the more conservative
Anglican body of North America.

We are also seeing a huge exodus across the pond by more traditional Anglicans from
the very liberal body of the Chruch of England who is just all over the place
with what is being called “Queer Theory” and transgenderism as the issue over gay clergy
is now simply passe.

The Presbyterians, the Lutherans, the Methodists and yes even the Baptists are all wrestling
with the same divisive issue of a traditional fundamental belief in scripture verses a more
liberal interpretation and the progressive view that the Bible is outdated and simply
put, wrong.

The argument is that God is Love, Jesus is Love and the Church should, therefore, be love…
and so the thinking is that this should all be quite clear.
Clear that there is love within the LBGTQ communities.
So come one, come all because we are all about love.

And thus any church member who thinks otherwise is so last century and entirely out
of step with the new way of the world…so if you don’t like it or argue that
it is entirely against Scripture, then you, my friend, are considered hate-filled
and need to go elsewhere because the new church has no room for such thinking.

However, I find that the Bible is very specific when it comes to homosexuality,
sinfulness, sexual deviations, pansexuality, gender, etc.

It is not the Bible that needs changing but rather man’s sinfulness.

No one disputes that God is love.
He has a deep and abiding love for… the sinner….that being you and me.
Hence the birth, eventual killing, and resurrection of His Son.

So no, I don’t see that other denominations are basically “on board” with gay marriage
or all the new sprouting ‘life choices.’

To sin or not to sin is a choice is it not?

The Bible is very specific about sin and what constitutes sin.
God hasn’t changed His mind.
He has not had that “ah ha” Oprah moment of “yeah, I think they are right. I suppose
I do need to rethink my thinking on say, all those commandments…”

God is immovable.
He does not waver.
No matter how much we work to convince ourselves that our choices are ok
and therefore He’s ok with said choices.

So, in a nutshell, that’s my comment.

I the Lord do not change.
So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.
Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and
have not kept them.
Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

Malachi 3:6-7

it’s all in the translation–mi vida di por ti

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only
but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:2


(Christ Crucified, VELÁZQUEZ, DIEGO RODRÍGUEZ DE SILVA Y/ 1632/ Museo Del Prado)

There is an Evangelical Hispanic Chruch that I pass by on almost a daily basis.
There has been a sign in front of the church with the same lettering, sentence, for the better
part of a year.

Now you should know, I love church signs—
they are the quick little lessons I glean during my travels.
Some or cute.
Some are funny.
Some are thought-provoking.
And it matters not the denomination or size of the church—
for God has certainly spoken to me over the years via the signs I’ve passed.

I have found that church signs tend to be found in smaller towns or more rural areas.
Growing up in Atlanta, the churches didn’t really have signs that made statements
or offered tidbits of wisdom…they were more or less signs with simply the name
of the church.

So the signs in these smaller towns and more rural areas really speak in greater ways
than what their congregations may even realize.

The sentence that I’ve passed by now for so very long reads:

mi vida di por ti

So with my limited understanding of foreign languages, I was pretty certain I
was reading it, every day to and fro, with the correct meaning.

I had known enough ‘spanglish’ to get by with my students when I was still teaching,
so I figured I had this.

But those of you who know me or read this site know that I struggle enough with my own
native tongue—throw in another tongue and there’s no telling how that will go.

And to think, I had had French in school from the 4th grade all the way to my sophomore year
in high school–
Yet I think I’m still good with merely ‘Je ne sais pas’—as in ‘I don’t know’–
as in, I really don’t know.

So while driving past this sign, with my infinite wisdom intact, I deduced that ‘por ti’ must mean
door, as in portal.
So I was convinced that the sign read, ‘I am the door’.
Made sense to me.

Yet given my lack of depth with language, I knew it was best to doubt myself.

So I made a mental note to look it up when I got home.

And to say that I was wrong is an understatement.

‘Mi vida di por ti’ translates to ‘I gave my life for you’

Now a well understood and powerful daily reminder that puts a smile on my face each day
I pass this church…
No wonder they’ve left it up so long as that pretty much says it all…

“A dead Christ I must do everything for;
a living Christ does everything for me.”

Andrew Murray, Jesus Himself

Blink and you just might miss it

“I am somewhat exhausted;
I wonder how a battery feels when it pours electricity into a non-conductor?”

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Dying Detective


(the first morning of the New Year as everyone made it to midnight, and look it)

I don’t know about you but I am somewhat exhausted.

Is it my age?
Was it the holidays?
Is it both??

Sprinkle in a heavy, or is that heavenly, dose of The Mayor and Sheriff.

They both go fast and hard…wide open…until


(The Mayor pushing around her little Sheriff, literally / Julie Cook / 2019)

they crash…falling in their tracks as the need to recharge runs deep
and is impossible to ignore.

And as hard as it can be for me to keep up or keep track or keep going…
I am reminded that in a blink of an eye…I will turn around and they will run,
or rather make that drive, off on their own all too soon…

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121

the year of Mercy…

“Deserves it! I daresay he does.
Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life.
Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment.
For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


(Original painting of the Divine Mercy, by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski in 1934)

It’s the end of another year as well as the end of another decade…
A time when we grow full of reflection and even introspection.

And if we don’t, well, I think it would behoove us to do so…
it’s good for the soul.

And by the way, I can say that because I’m now on the downhill slope of what is
considered to be US life expectancy, and thus—
older people are supposed to have gleaned from hindsight…
so my hindsight is saying that you need to reflect.

The other day I had offered my hope that the coming year could be a year
for moms and motherhood along with their children and husbands…
as in the fathers of their children…as in families…traditional families
as in those families found within the covenant of God the Father.

And no, this post is not about a debate regarding what constitutes a “family”–
that’s a discussion for another day.

But for now, let’s hear it for moms.
Be they working or stay at home….
because at the end of the day…
the bottom line is that a mom is still a mom…
and that is the single most important job.

And so this notion has gotten me thinking.
Thinking and pondering.

I’ve started a new book…in part because I saw that Bishop Gavin Ashenden had
written the forward to the book.

Oh and just in case you missed it, our favorite across the pond Anglican cleric
is now a new Catholic convert.

The book is The Warning by Christine Watkins

“Authentic accounts of saints and mystics of the Church who have spoken of a day when
we will all see our souls in the light of truth,
and fascinating stories of those who have already experienced it for themselves.”

As I was reading my few pages last night, as that is about all the reading I’m afforded
these days–a page here or there at night, Ms. Watkins mused about death—
something that we will all eventually face.
Whether we are a believer or not, death does not discriminate.

So she posed a question about what happens upon death—our death.
It’s the age-old mystery…death and what happens to us at that defining moment.

For Believers, this is a time of accountability.

As in all sins, all those things done and not done will be set before us.
Even those sins we have confessed and asked forgiveness over will
still, be displayed.

That notion made me swallow hard.

Even though there is and has been forgiveness, our sins will still be on display.
Both known and unknown.
Displayed before us and our Savior, Father and Holy Spirit.

How do you defend such?
How do you explain such?
How do you play off such?

Because isn’t that what we currently do in life? We make excuses.
So why not in death?

But here’s the thing, we won’t be able to nor can we.
The moment will be beyond earthly comprehension
and somehow I think to stand before God, will leave us without defense.

We will be totally exposed, opened like a splayed chicken and utterly vulnerable.

And on that thought, I closed the book, turned off the light and laid there thinking…
and praying.

A key word came to mind…

Mercy.

According to Merriam Webster ‘mercy’ is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown
toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

God has shown His mercy to man—both you and me, by sending His only son…
offering mercy to a corrupt and sinful humankind.
Grace has been given to those who do not deserve Grace but who have been offered it freely
and without attached strings.

And so I would like to see this to be a year for all of us to put mercy atop our list.
To show and to offer mercy to our fellow human beings, despite whether they deserve it or not
because deserving is not the issue.

It will not be easy.
It will demand us to stop and think before quickly casting our hate-filled
angry filled resentment and judgment.

We are such a divided nation, so full of the notion of ‘I am right and you are wrong’
that we allow our national convictions to outweigh the human act of Compassion, Grace and
especially Mercy.
We have become so knee jerk in our reactions that the thought of Mercy never crosses
our minds.

In the turning of the calendar, in the moving into a new year,
may we be mindful of the gift we have each been given…
that being the gift, the ability, to offer to others our compassion, our grace,
and our mercy only because God first offered His Compassion, Grace, and Mercy to us.

In 2015 Pope Francis proclaimed that the year of the Jubilee of Mercy,
The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (Latin: Iubilaeum Extraordinarium Misericordiae)
was a Roman Catholic period of prayer held from 8 December 2015,
the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, to 20 November 2016,
the Feast of Christ the King.
Like previous jubilees, it was seen by the Church as a period for remission of sins
and universal pardon focusing particularly on God’s forgiveness and mercy.
It was an extraordinary Jubilee because it had not been predetermined long before;
ordinary jubilees are usually celebrated every 25 years.

I think we need to offer such jubilee one more time!

I think we too are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus,
but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with,
to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think –
and I say it with humility – that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy.

Pope Francis
Homily on March 17, 2013