trying my soul

Leaves without flowers:
these are they which have words without works.

St. Thomas Aquinas
from the book Sermon in a Sentence, Vol. 5


(a soon to be blooming vine / Julie Cook / 2021)

Is it a coincidence that this week of all weeks, Holy Week, a week of the trying souls,
that WP is once again trying to make the new block editor the the only option for posting??
That the classic editor is becoming more and more elusive?
Perhaps my beloved classic editor is to be eliminated all together?
Is it not just a small microcosm, a random example of our current times?

The canceling, the exclusion, the elimination of the what was…
all for that ‘something’ that the powers that be deem to be so much other than
as well as better than…
something deemed to be more inclusive, and in turn, better?

But is all of that truly better?

Elusive and difficult, at best, is not better.

Does it matter that a portion of the population prefers what was???
Preferring that ‘what was’ is something that works best and better for others??
Or is it that ‘they’ and ‘it’ are both simply obsolete?

My husband and I ran to Home Depot today…a trip we make almost three times a week,
while we head to Lowes the other days of the week—
either way, we are in search of things needed for this new old home we’ve “inherited”
via purchase.
But let’s not go there today.

So I opted to sit in the car while my husband ran into the store.

While I sat in the car I pulled out my phone and saw that I had a notice that
The Chosen was offering their new trailer for the soon to be released Season 2.

The Chosen–that marvelous crowd funded show about the life of Jesus…via the
backstories of those who came in contact with the son of a carpenter…

I clicked on the trailer.

Isn’t it funny how God often desires to “speak” to us, His children, in places and in ways
we’d never imagine?
It matters not when nor where God opts to speak out loud to us–He will speak no matter
what or when!

He spoke to me today in the parking lot of the Home Depot in Athens, Ga.

I heard a resounding word—“your world is small, MY world is all encompassing.”

I looked at all the cars, all the folks pushing carts all around me…
Everyone was busy.
Life was on the move…and yet…
I had a resounding sense that all that I was seeing and experiencing was oh so small
and insignificant.

There was a true sense of peace in all of that.

All the news, all the mayhem, all the politics, all the legalities, all the pandemic..
all the madness taking place..none of it mattered…I felt a sudden sense of being
small and insignificant.

And in that insignificance, in that smallness…there was a release.
A peace found in the small…
No news
No storms
No politics
No laws
No division
No defunding police
No lawmakers
No masks
No vaccines
No trials
No hate
No death…

All bits and pieces of insignificance.

Our God…your God, my God..
Greater than anything of this world…
Greater than our own thoughts and imagination…
Thank goodness!!!

“I’ve appointed the Devil to tempt and to trouble My creatures in this life
[St. Catherine of Siena reports that Our Lord said to her].
I’ve done this, not so that My creatures will be overcome,
but so that they may overcome, proving their virtue and receiving from Me the glory of victory.
And no one should fear any battle or temptation of the Devil that may come to him,
because I’ve made My creatures strong, and I’ve given them strength of will,
fortified in the Blood of My Son.
Neither the Devil nor any other creature can control this free will,
because it’s yours, given to you by Me.
By your own choice, then, you hold it or let it go if you please.
It’s a weapon, and if you place it in the hands of the Devil,
it right away becomes a knife that he’ll use to stab and kill you.
On the other hand, if you don’t place this knife that is your will into the hands of the Devil—
that is, if you don’t consent to his temptations and harassments—
you will never be injured by the guilt of sin in any temptation.
Instead, you’ll actually be strengthened by the temptation,
as long as you open the eyes of your mind to see My love, and to understand why
I allowed you to be tempted: so you could develop virtue by having it proved.
My love permits these temptations, for the Devil is weak.
He can do nothing by himself unless I allow him.
So I let him tempt you because I love you, not because I hate you.
I want you to conquer, not to be conquered,
and to come to a perfect knowledge of yourself and of Me.”

St. Catherine of Siena, p. 159-60
An Excerpt From
Manual for Spiritual Warfare

“The kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom…”

“The truth of the matter is that the whole world has already been turned
upside down by the work of Jesus Christ”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship


(Lady Banks roses / Julie Cook / 2021)

“[Saint] Paul understood that the suffering he was going through somehow allowed him
to share in Christ’s suffering for the world…
In his own life, there was a time when he asked the Lord three times to remove a
particular suffering from him (see 2 Corinthians 12:8).
The response he received from the Lord was not “Oh, my oversight.
That’s right, I took care of all that suffering.
You don’t have to do anything.”
No, God’s response was, “[Paul], my grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)…
It is completely opposite of the way the world thinks…
What looked like the worst thing that ever happened on earth—Christ hanging on a cross,
bleeding to death—became the source of salvation for the entire world.
The point of weakness became the point of strength;
it was transformed into the power over death and Hell.
We have to get it through our heads that the kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom
according to the world’s perspective.
Weakness confounds the wise.
The poor and obscure confound the rich and famous…
Whatever you are going through right now, remember that God has a plan for you.
He wants to be united to you so closely that it resembles a spousal relationship…
your suffering is not inconsequential; it is extremely valuable in the economy of God.”
Jeff Cavins, When You Suffer

An Excerpt From
When You Suffer

God does not judge as man judges…

“The school of Christ is the school of love.
In the last day, when the general examination takes place …
Love will be the whole syllabus.”

St. Robert Bellarmine


(after the rain/ Julie Cook / 2021)


(after the rain / Julie Cook / 2021)

“Set free from human judgment, we should count as true only what God sees
in us, what he knows, and what he judges.
God does not judge as man does.
Man sees only the countenance, only the exterior.
God penetrates to the depths of our hearts.
God does not change as man does.
His judgment is in no way inconstant.
He is the only one upon whom we should rely.
How happy we are then, and how peaceful!
We are no longer dazzled by appearances, or stirred up by opinions;
we are united to the truth and depend upon it alone.
I am praised, blamed, treated with indifference, disdained, ignored,
or forgotten; none of this can touch me.
I will be no less than I am.
Men and women want to play at being a creator.
They want to give me existence in their opinion,
but this existence that they want to give me is nothingness.
It is an illusion, a shadow, an appearance, that is, at bottom, nothingness.
What is this shadow, always following me, behind me, at my side?
Is it me, or something that belongs to me?
No.
Yet does not this shadow seem to move with me?
No matter: it is not me. So it is with the judgements of men:
they would follow me everywhere, paint me, sketch me,
make me move according to their whim, and, in the end, give me some sort of existence…
but I am disabused of this error.
I am content with a hidden life.
How peaceful it is!
Whether I truly live this Christian life of which St. Paul speaks,
I do not know, nor can I know with certainty. But I hope that I do,
and I trust in God’s goodness to help me.”

Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, p. 99-101
An Excerpt From
Meditations for Lent

think and seek the things of God…

“O man, when the world hates you and is faithless toward you, think of your God,
how he was struck and spat upon.
You should not accuse your neighbor of guilt,
but pray to God that he be merciful to you both.”

St. Nicholas of Flue


(I think it’s called an Autumn cherry…despite it’s prolific blooms during early Spring / Julie Cook / 2021)

“This world is filled with many vulgar and dishonorable things that will claw and tear at your
Christian purity if you allow them to.
Don’t let them!
Seek instead the things of God.
He will purify you and free you from your slavery to profane and inconsequential things.”

Patrick Madrid, p.1
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Bible

sharing the right things???

“It is a lesson we all need—to let alone the things that do not concern us.
He has other ways for others to follow Him; all do not go by the same path.
It is for each of us to learn the path by which He requires us to follow Him,
and to follow Him in that path.”

St. Katharine Drexel


(the sun, clouds and sky / Julie Cook / 2021)

Time may one day be back on my side…
and so with no further ado, while I try my best to
jump back on this blog train….
let’s get on with the meat and potatoes…the substance and sustenance
of what really matters.

Picture the hobo train jumper running alongside a moving train full
of open boxcars…
He’s running as fast as he can in order to keep up with the
rapidly accelerating train…his outstretched arm straining to grab hold of a
hand rail that is just out of reach.
Does he dare leap, hoping to grab hold while pulling himself up into the open car
or does he slow his pace and let the train move on without him??

The risk?

Getting crushed and run over or missing the train???
Which is the greater loss??

I’m the train hopper, straining to grab hold—still running to
stay up with the moving train….that moving train is life itself!
And it will not be slowing down and it will not wait on us.

So I’m taking the chance, I’m leaping.
The hour is dire.
We need to speak up and out during these scary and very dark days.

As I was getting all my little computer ‘windows’ open, ready to start a post,
I was pulling up my email…and while doing so, I was quickly scanning the Yahoo
cover page of “news” snippets…a wealth of the headlines and the ‘dead’lines.

And suddenly one word came into clear focus in my brain…SHARING

The entire notion of sharing…

Sharing is caring right???
Isn’t that what we tell kids??

But is it???
Is it caring or is it careless??

One look at any electronic outlet (FB, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, etc)
and it’s clear as rain, sharing is the name of the game.
That whole notion of TMI (too much information) has gone out the window.
Folks now want to air all sorts of laundry…the good, the bad and the ugly.
Boasting and Bragging
Shaming and degrading.

And so what is the benefit of such mindless, idol sharing?

The majority of what is being shared is more sordid, vile, foul, gossipy
false and inflammatory rather than it could ever be edifying, gracious and glorious.

There is so much we, the followers of Christ, need to be sharing throughout these most
precarious days as time is of the essence.

So let’s ask ourselves…are we sharing that which is truly worth chasing
a moving train over or is is more dribble than substance??

“Now there’s no one who approaches God with a true and upright heart who isn’t
tested by hardships and temptations.
So in all these temptations see to it that even if you feel them,
you don’t consent to them.
Instead, bear them patiently and calmly with humility and long-suffering.”

St. Albert the Great, p. 164
An Excerpt From
Manual for Spiritual Warfare

who turns sorrow to joy?

“My prayer is that the good God may establish His absolute reign
in your heart and in the hearts of all.”

St. Julie Billiart


(the clouds above a still sea / Julie Cook / 2021)

“Jesus will turn your sorrow into joy.
One can only imagine the shock and bewilderment the Apostles felt when
the Lord told them he must go away.
Though they could not understand it at the time, his departure was for their benefit.
The same is true of the unexpected setbacks and tragedies we experience in this life . . .
When I consider the times when I have been confounded by events that seemed so contrary
to what I thought God wanted for me, I should be mindful that they were permitted
by the Lord’s inscrutable providence for my own good, as difficult as that might be to fathom.”

Patrick Madrid, p. 251
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Bible

How could one Julie not highlight another Julie??

Julie Billiart (12 July 1751 — 8 April 1816) was a French religious leader,
social worker, educator of poor children, and Catholic saint,
who founded and was the first Superior General of the Congregation of the
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
(Wikipedia)

on the move

I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand,
as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven,
we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it–
but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.


(a plethora of piping plovers / Julie Cook / 2021)

Since the notion of moving has been my current train of thought, I certainly appreciated
seeing these little guys doing much the same…
They always make me smile.
Smiles are good!


(piping plovers / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2021

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:18-19

for those who do not know or have forgotten—living forever

“I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus
to those who do not know Him or have forgotten Him.”

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini


(The Mayor’s big reveal / Brenton Cook / 2021)

“Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever,
and this must be either true or false.
Now there are a good many things which would not be worth bothering about
if I were going to live only seventy years, but which I had better bother about
very seriously if I am going to live for ever.”

C.S. Lewis, p. 74
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

****we’re off to the Mayor’s for her big party this weekend…you know how it is to turn 3??!!!

fix your sights and do not hide!

“Fix your minds on the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Inflamed with love for us, he came down from heaven to redeem us.
For our sake he endured every torment of body and soul and shrank from no bodily pain.
He himself gave us an example of perfect patience and love.
We, then, are to be patient in adversity.”

St. Francis of Paola


(bullseye glass / Paris, France, Julie Cook / 2018)

“Now man need not hide from God as Adam did;
for He can be seen through Christ’s human nature.
Christ did not gain one perfection more by becoming man,
nor did He lose anything of what He possessed as God.
There was the Almightiness of God in the movement of His arm,
the infinite love of God in the beatings of His human heart and the
Unmeasured Compassion of God to sinners in His eyes.
God was now manifest in the flesh; this is what is called the Incarnation.
The whole range of the Divine attributes of power and goodness,
justice, love, beauty, were in Him.
And when Our Divine Lord acted and spoke, God in His perfect nature became manifest
to those who saw Him and heard Him and touched Him. As He told Philip later on:
Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father [John 14:9].”

Fulton J. Sheen, p. 21
An Excerpt From
Life of Christ

revisiting a 6 year old post (Turning Point)

What most of all hinders heavenly consolation is that you are too slow in
turning yourself to prayer.

Thomas a Kempis


(detail of a pinecone / Julie Cook / 2014)

** I made a terrible mistake last evening…I watched the news.
It was Fox, who since the election, I’ve just kind of cut ties with,
just as I’ve cut ties with all major news outlets…
I am more than disheartened with the “conservative” news program’s seemingly
feeble attempts to stand up against the growing national oppression of our freedom
of speech and thought…
yet sadly, they fall woefully short…and still….I watched.

I was quickly reminded as to why I now avoid all news.
It is sickening.
It was a startling reminder that we are living George Orwell’s 1984.
We are living Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
Maybe we are even living in the midst of the Book of Revelation…

And if that’s the case, things really are scary, but thankfully in that
most frightening of thoughts, there remains hope for those of
us with weary souls because we know Our Redeemer will reign supreme
and this nightmare will end.

We are living in the midst of a massive Spiritual battle..
a battle of light vs darkness.

A place where Americans view one another as their own worst enemy.
Free speech and thought as not free or even allowed.
We have forgotten our past, our history, our ideals…
We have become our own worst enemy.
And it all began when we turned our back on God.

So as I watched, I felt sick to my stomach.

And since we are living life in the Twilight Zone…
I decided to cast my thoughts backwards…tumbling back in time.
I went back 6 years ago…6 years ago to a time that was pre-Trump.
It was life during Obama’s reign.
And oddly what I wrote those 6 years ago did not speak of calm, peace and a kumbiya existence–
but rather it was a shadow of things to come…it’s just that we had no idea of knowing
how bad it would all become…

Here is that 6 year old post….

As a tale-end Baby Boomer and child of the Cold War, the Soviet Union, the USSR,
The Federation of the Russian Republic or simply Mother Russia,
has always been an uncomfortable shadow over my shoulder,
just as it has for most everyone my age and older.
The enigma known as Russia, who most graciously hosted the world last February
for the Winter Olympics only to turn around and shock us all a few months
following with the “invasion” of Ukraine, has remained a conundrum for the free world
since the Russian Revolution of 1917 which gave way to birth of Communism.

When I was in high school, which seems to be many lifetimes ago,
I had the good fortune of taking a Russian History course—with the most memorable
experience being of my introduction to the writings of Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
I had the good fortune of reading several of his books…
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Gulag Archipelago and Cancer Ward.

Now all these many years later I find myself drawn back to the writings
and words of Solzhenitsyn,
of which I find more prophetic than I had ever imagined.

For those of you unfamiliar with Solzhenitsyn, in a nutshell,
he was a Russian soldier (WWII), Gulag prisoner (for nearly 10 years),
writer and novelist, historian, Soviet dissident,
Nobel Prize recipient and finally, again, Russian citizen.

As a life long member of the Russian Orthodox Church,
Solzhenitsyn was guided by a deeply spiritual moral compass.
He was a very loud and vocal opponent of Totalitarianism,
of which expedited his forced exile from the Soviet Union,
yet he could also be equally critical of the West and its obsession with Capitalism,
Consumerism and Materialism. All of which reminds me of the chastisement the West
often received from Pope John Paul II,
as well as Mother Teresa—as perhaps those who have suffered more grievously under
the Socialist and ultra Nationalistic Regime of the Nazis and then that of
the Communist Soviets, have perhaps a clearer perspective of our
often blind view of what we consider to be “the good life”

I am poignantly reminded of Solzhenitsyn, his words and wisdom as well wise counsel
and rebukes of those who have witnessed first hand the sinister wiles
and atrocities of Evil, particularly during this time of year as it seems
the world always appears to crescendo to a heightened sense of madness–just
as the holidays come into focus. I don’t know why that is except that
as the world seems to not only witness an abundance of joy and goodwill,
there seems to be an equal measure of evil and chaos.
Perhaps it is because Christians are drawn to the birth of the Savior and Jews
begin the celebration of the miracle of light and the rededication to the Second Temple–
a time of a tremendous pull of people toward God—as it seems Evil
must have its share of the pie by unleashing its part of unimaginable
pain and suffering in order to create some sort of sadistic counter balance.

Perhaps our senses are on hyper drive this time of year as we keenly
feel the highs of Joy and Wonder along with the bottomless pit of despair
and suffering as they each roll in to one. These thoughts reverberate
in my mind just as Sydney, Australia was held hostage Monday
by a radical Islamist madman leaving 3 individuals, including the gunman, dead.
Then on Tuesday, Pakistan witnessed an unimaginable attack on a school
leaving 132 children and 9 adult staff members dead all at the hands of the Taliban.

We currently have a menacing cyber attack taking place at Sony as North Korea
is suspected to be retaliating to the release of a tongue and cheek movie
which sadly mocks an attempted assassination of an, albeit, unhinged world leader.
Sometimes I think we, those of us in the West with our often sophomoric
entertainment industry, have lost our sense of what is considered off limits or
morally wrong when it comes to the exploitation of movie making and entertainment–
but I suppose a moral compass would be needed in the first place in order to be
reminded of such. . .

We have just marked the tragic anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre
as we continue reading headline after headline of local, national and global tragedies.
Just as the world tries to come together in some sort of unity marking two
very sacred holy times of the year as well as the secular merry making
of Santa, Papa Noel and Kris Kringle’s arrival.

In reading Solzhenitsyn’s book Warning to the West,
which is actually a brief composite and compendium of the texts to three
separate addresses made in the US in the late 1970’s,
it is startlingly frightening noting the parallels of then verses now.
I am keenly reminded of the relevance of Solzhenitsyn’s words which were uttered
almost 40 years ago as they could very well be spoken on the world stage today
regarding today’s global state. I will leave you with a few pieces of his
excerpted texts in order to ponder and ruminate the relevance and warnings
which echo across our prosaic landscape as we wrestle to make sense of the
tragic events which continue to unfold before our very eyes this holiday season. . .

“Is it possible or impossible to transmit the experience of those who have
suffered to those who have yet to suffer?
Can one part of humanity learn from the bitter experience of another or can it not?
Is it possible or impossible to warn someone of danger?
How many witnesses have been sent to the West in the last sixty years?
How may waves of immigrants? How many millions of persons? They are all here.
You meet them every day. You know who they are: if not by their spiritual disorientation,
their grief, their melancholy, then you can distinguish them by their
accents or their external appearance. Coming from different countries,
without consulting with one another, they have brought out exactly the same experience;
They tell you exactly the same thing: they warn you of what is now taking
place and of what has taken place in the past.
But the proud skyscrapers stand on, jut into the sky, and say:
It will never happen here. This will never come to us.
It is not possible here.”

“In addition to the grave political situation in the world today,
we are also witnessing the emergence of a crisis of unknown nature, one completely new,
and entirely non-political.
We are approaching a major turning point in world history, the the history of civilization.
It has already been noted by specialists in various areas.
I could compare it only with the turning from the Middle Ages to the modern era,
a shift in our civilization. It is a juncture at which settled concepts
suddenly become hazy, lose their precise contours, at which our familiar and commonly
used words lose their meaning, become empty shells, and methods which have been reliable
for many centuries no longer work. It’s the sort of turning point where the
hierarchy of values which we have generated, and which we use to determine
what is important to us and what causes our hearts to beat is starting
to rock and may collapse.
These two crises, the political crisis of today’s world and the oncoming spiritual crisis,
are occurring at the same time. It is our generation that will have to confront them.
The leadership of your country,
which is entering the third century of existence as a nation will perhaps
have to bear a burden greater than ever before in American history.
Your leaders will need profound intuition, spiritual foresight,
high qualities of mind and soul.
May God granted that in those times you will have at the helm personalities
as great as those who rested your country . . .”

(excepts taken from a speech delivered in New York July 9, 1975,
at a luncheon given by the AFL-CIO)