new year, new outlook, new hope…may it be found in prayer

“For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.”
St. Teresa of Avila


(mosaic flooring at the German cemetary, Normady, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

“If you would suffer with patience the adversities and miseries of this life, be a man of prayer.
If you would obtain courage and strength to conquer the temptations of the enemy, be a man of prayer.
If you would mortify your own will with all its inclinations and appetites, be a man of prayer.
If you would know the wiles of Satan and unmask his deceits, be a man of prayer.
If you would live in joy and walk pleasantly in the ways of penance, be a man of prayer.
If you would banish from your soul the troublesome flies of vain thoughts and cares, be a man of prayer.
If you would nourish your soul with the very sap of devotion, and keep it always full of good thoughts and good desires,
be a man of prayer.
If you would strengthen and keep up your courage in the ways of God, be a man of prayer.
In fine, if you would uproot all vices from your soul and plant all virtues in their place, be a man of prayer.
It is in prayer that we receive the unction and grace of the Holy Ghost,
who teaches all things.”

St. Bonaventure, p. 25-26
An Excerpt From
The Ways of Mental Prayer

throw it out and start all over

Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.
Meister Eckhart


(harvest time, in the dead of winter, go figure / Julie Cook / 2018)

Here in northwest Georgia, we are currently in the midst of our typical dreary Georgia winters…
grey, damp, misty, rainy and utterly foggy…
all of which gives way to just a sunless chilly dampness that gives way a heavy case
of the “meh’s”…
Not depressed but not joyful.
Not sad but not perky.

Yet despite this damp dreariness, believe it or not, all the citrus trees, that have been
moved to the basement for the season, are now bearing a plethora of fruit…
go figure!

So when life gives you an abundance of lemons in the dead of winter…
I suppose one gets busy making
something lemony.

Of which I did…today (yesterday by the time you’re reading this today)

I was going to look up lemon recipes that require a good bit of juice but I was
in the process of “migrating” again my old computer to the new computer.
It seems that the 5 hours required the other day was not enough,
I needed to add two more hours today in order to complete the “migration”…
I don’t think it takes geese that long to migrate!

Computer migration meant I wouldn’t be looking for all things lemony on the computer anytime soon
so I would be doing so with my phone instead. Sigh.

Searching, reading and squinting, I found a recipe for a lemony loaf cake that needs 1/2 cup
of fresh juice.

Perfect.

I headed to the basement in order to pluck what lemons were ripe…6 for now.
3 limes and 2 tiny calamondins.

I zested three lemons and juiced them while the butter softened.

My phone screen kept closing so I kept having to find a clean finger in order to touch the screen
and click back on the recipe.

I read over what I needed, what the oven needed to be set on and scanned over the step by steps–
in between the on and off screen…

I creamed the butter with the sugar, I added the eggs, I shifted the flour,
I measured the baking soda, baking powder, salt…
WAIT
was that 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder or
was it 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon baking powder???????

It was too late, I had gone with the first thought…
that being the full teaspoon of the baking soda and
the 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.

When I clicked my phone from black back to the recipe, I read I had reversed the two…
I tasted the batter…yuck…definitely too much soda.
The lemon juice seemed to make it start growing in the bowl.
Now I’m no chemistry major, but there was certainly a reaction beginning to react…

But what the heck, what’s 1/2 teaspoon too much??

I poured my “growing” batter into the pan…oddly it was now right at the rim and seemed
to still be growing…
I fretted what would happen when it hit the heat????

I shoved a sheet of foil underneath in case it opted to spill over.

I set the timer and quickly grabbed my phone now with two dirty hands yet full attention.

I quickly googled what happens if one adds more soda than what is called for.

All of the listed articles might as well as have had a nuclear warning sign as a header
as each one read of disaster.

The batter will taste bitter and soapy. Check
The batter will expand beyond capacity especially if an acidic base is added. Check
The batter will flow out of the pan once it’s placed in the over. Double check,

Solution…

Throw it all out and start over.

One article did advise that you could possibly double the flour, butter, eggs, sugar
and make a double batch but I wasn’t going there.

I yanked open the oven door and grabbed the now overflowing pan and headed straight to the trashcan.

I started over.

This time being careful to get my soda and powder measurement right.

I threw out 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of lemon juice, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of milk, 1 stick of butter,
1 Tbl of lemon zest…a huge waste but the only salvageable option.

And so as I started over from scratch on this now seemingly costly cake of mine,
I was reminded that we are currently perched on the tossing out of one year
as we prepare to start fresh on a new year.

I can honestly say that I am happy, for many reasons, to be tossing out this past year.

It’s like my batter with the too much soda, it just needs to be thrown out and started anew…
despite the seemingly lost cost.

On a personal level, this past year was a blessing in that we had great joy with the birth of this
first grandchild of ours…and the news of another one soon on his way…
As well as with the successful retiring of a 50-year business.

Yet I can’t help but think about this country of ours and of our global community.
The uncertainty.
The hatefulness.
The sinfulness.
The anger.
The turning away from our Judeo / Christian heritage.

I can only pray that God, in His Mercy, will continue to afford us His Grace…
And that He will indeed remain gracious and merciful to his wayward children.

I pray that we can hold onto a continued sense of hopefulness while we look forward to a
fresh beginning…because Lord knows, it’s time we get a brand new fresh start!
Just like my cake…that finally turned out a great success.

Here’s to a hope-filled successful new year for us all!!!

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace,
that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

it takes more than a resolution, it takes a tenacious faith

There is nothing wrong with bringing resolution and courage to the new year,
but life is precarious. And dealing with the death of friends,
tragedy striking unexpectedly and bits of one’s body giving up,
needs more than just well-gritted teeth.

Gavin Ashenden


(a Norwegian wolverine demonstrates tenacity, grit and a fearsomeness)

Life is indeed precarious.
None of us know where it will take us next.
I dare say we all have some sort of notion of where we’d like to go,
even as to how we’d like to get there…but again, there are no guarantees.

Bishop Ashenden, in his wanderings and wonderings over the notion about new years
and their resolutions, has a bit of a lesson for each of us.

Now first we must note that we are a number liking people—-
just consider the fact that we are all about stats and numbers,
especially if we are wanting to justify or clearly define that with is unjust or undefinable.

Statistics show that they, being stats, are stacked against resolutions.
This we know.
Numbers don’t lie right?

Just yesterday I read some headline stating that by February, 80% of every New Year’s
resolution, is simply scattered by the wayside…
discarded and forgotten.

I don’t even bother.
I learned years ago that resolutions are simply short lived—
somewhat feeble attempts of being a better/ healthier person.
It takes more than just a resolution for those two things to take hold.
And when push comes to shove—the resolutions get shoved.
And it is that very reason, the good bishop notes,
a resolution will simply die…
Because Life simply has a different plan.

Life will put up a brick wall and all resolutions not to mention stamina, mindset
and determination quickly head out the back door.

Yet for many of us, a new year becomes some sort of giant reset button.
A time to review, remove, rewrite, renew….
And that certainly has its merit….
that is, up to a point.

Yet what the good Bishop is reminding us of is that as life has a way of
steamrolling over our best of intentions and plans, so much so that when that happens
as it eventually will, it’s going to take a lot more from within to survive
the steamrolling…
much more than a resolution or even gritted teeth that are grinning and bearing
can endure.

Life is hard.

It is not fair nor is it often kind…

And yet….we always seem to think that with some sort of twisted finagling,
we can beat it and actually win.
And we might actually do so but only for a while…for eventually,
Life in the end will have its way and that is when we in turn call it calamity,
sickness and even death.

And so the good Bishop looks to one who has gone on long before us but yet lives
on in her writings….
St Julian of Norwich (1373).

Julian had a tenacious belief in God.
She was what was known as an Anchoress….or one who literally attached
or anchored themselves to a church.

She was literally sealed up into a cell attached to the church of St Julian’s
there in Norwich, hence her name—as we really don’t know her actual name.
(here’s a bit of history lesson concerning this dear woman:
http://www.britainexpress.com/counties/norfolk/norwich/st-julian.htm)

Julian spent a lifetime devoted to God and ministering to those who would come
to the window of her cell seeking solace, prayer or wisdom.

Julian experienced visions and wrote these visions down—
as the writings eventually became a book, Revelations of Divine Love.

Tenacious and unrelenting—the only way Julian would extol that one should or could
best live…and that was to be anchored to the Divinity of the Creator and to the Love
He offered as in the tangible being of His Son…..

Bishop Ashenden notes that “it’s this belief in God that offers the kind of
affirmation for us that equips us best to deal with uncertainty,
and even tragedy, as we face the future remembering the disturbing
uncertainty of the past.”

The good Bishop relays a story of one of the many visions that Julian
was so famous for having–visions of God as Divine Creator.

Delusions of a mad or even physically ill woman some would claim….
but a gift of visions is what the faithful know….

So when Julian witnessed God taking the planet Earth and holding it in
His hand she responds by asking Him about its now seemingly smallness…..

‘It is all that is made.’ (God replied) I marvelled how it might last,
for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness.
And I was answered in my understanding: “It lasts and ever shall,
for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.”
Julian of Norwich

Throughout her visions she was taught that God could and would bring good out
of evil and because of that there was no need for anxiety.
Her motto and mantra became,

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

and perhaps Julian gives us the best of resolutions…to know that all shall indeed be
well when we rest in the Divine Love of God which is found incarnate in Christ, Jesus.

Belief in Christ brings the affirmation needed to strengthen our resolution.

increasing and decreasing

I have an increasing sense that the most important crisis of our time is
spiritual and that we need places where people can grow stronger in
the spirit and be able to integrate the emotional struggles
in their spiritual journeys.

Fr Henri Nouwen

“Christian spirituality, the contemplative life, is not about us.
It is about God.
The great weakness of American spirituality is that it is all about us:
fulfilling our potential, getting the blessings of God, expanding our influence,
finding our gifts, getting a handle on principles by which we can
get an edge over the competition.
The more there is of us, the less there is of God.

Eugene Peterson


(snow encrusted camel / Julie Cook / 2017)

Have you ever found yourself holding a cup or glass of liquid that comes all the
way to to very top…
Someone has either over poured or just wasn’t thinking…
and so now obviously, you can’t add nary an ice cube to the glass without
sending the contents cascading outward and downward…

To add the ice, you’d need to first sip out a good bit or pour out a little
of the liquid, making room for the ice.

And on top of that, you have to be oh so very careful while just trying to get
the glass up to your mouth without sloshing everything everywhere.

If then our lives are just as full, filled to the very brim…
full of external entities, as well as full from within from our very
egotistical selves, how can there any space or room…for anything?

And yet we somehow think we can continue squeezing in just one more thing
or taking on one more little extra…shoving and pushing much like an
overstuffed suitcase.
Obviously we can’t sit on our lives trying to get things sufficiently and
tightly closed…
so clearly something is going to have to go.

Much like the time I was once returning from a trip abroad and my suitcase
weighed over the allotted allowance by 7 pounds….
I had a choice…either I was going to have to pay a hefty fee for being overtly full,
or as we did, I had to scramble right then and there at the check-in counter,
yanking things out while my aunt was stuffing my residual into her lighter bag.

These are the moments when we begrudgingly realize that there is simply no more
room to take on anything or anyone else for that matter—
as there is neither room nor space to truly do justice to whatever or whomever
we are trying to squeeze in…

Squeezing for the sake of squeezing just doesn’t make much sense…
as it’s truly just a waste of energy and time.

So its time to let go and lighten the load.

And what better time is there than a new year—
the perfect time to sort and purge.

Yet it’s one thing to purge ones world of excessive stuff, emptying closets,
drawers, shelves…hauling this and that to the Goodwill or even the dump….

But the real question, the looming question, the question that is really about life and death, is how does one purge one’s self of the excessive stuff of self?
How does one make room internally, opening up space for a God who wants to be
invited in?

Since this is the time of year when we are reminded of the need to be about change…
as well as the importance, or lack thereof, of both our internal space and of our
place in this world of ours,
perhaps we are now more open to the notion of a truly crucial need.

We must decrease, as He must increase…..

This is to be an action, not a reaction, that is to become a conscious action
in that it shall be a lasting process….
A process which requires both thought and time—as it will not be accomplished
in the blink of an eye or within a day, a week, a month or even over the course
of a year…but rather over the remainder of one’s lifetime.

This isn’t about losing weight, exercising, getting organized, being thrifty…
it’s about change…a change for the sake of a relationship…
and for a life… not fleeting and overwhelmed, but focused and everlasting…

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and
has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.
He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances,
that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two,
thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body
through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.
So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace
to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit
to the Father.

Ephesians 2:14-18

hopefulness found in the new….

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

Alfred Tennyson

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(Icon image of St Jude Thaddeus by Ryszard Sleczka)

“But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of
our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.
They said to you,
“In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.”
These are the people who divide you,
who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.”

As we prepare to close the book on yet another year…
being mindful that it was indeed quite the year….
dangling from the icy strands of a distant bitter wind,
the ancient words of those who have gone long before us,
dance across the cold chasm of time…

St Jude Thaddeus,
younger brother of James the Lesser and one of the inner circle of 12…

Apostle,
Preacher,
teacher,
martyr.

Jude who is known as the saint of lost causes, of despair, and of hopelessness…
Proclaims, and rightly so, to all who have ears to hear and eyes to behold
not to despair…
not to languish in the gloom of dejection…
not to give way to the ensuing divisions of the ungodly
but rather to be of steadfast faith binding ourselves to the Holy Spirit…

But you, dear friends,
by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in
the Holy Spirit,
keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of
our Lord Jesus Christ
to bring you to eternal life.

Be merciful to those who doubt;
save others by snatching them from the fire;
to others show mercy,
mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and
to present you before his glorious presence without fault
and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory,
majesty, power and authority,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
before all ages,
now and forevermore!
Amen.

(Jude 17-25)

So therefore we are to go boldly and bravely into this new and waiting year…
Standing firm and grounded in our faith which is rooted deeply in Jesus Christ.
May we not be deterred nor disheartened…
not by the ominous signs of these trying times…
But rather rejoicing…
as we are full of the hopefulness found in the mercy and forgivenes
of our Risen Savior….

Happy New Year…

status quo

“One day everything will be well,
that is our hope.
Everything’s fine today,
that is our illusion”

Voltaire

edward_collier_-_letter_rack_-_google_art_project
(Edward Collier’s Letter Rack / 1698 / Oil on Canvas /Art Gallery of South Australia)

There are good days…
Days such as Christmas when things like Snoopy and Woodstock flannel sheets,
along with a handmade Georgia Tech teddy bear is all it takes to make
one happy and content.

img_0840
(dad and his grandson on Christmas day / Julie Cook / 2016)

There are bad days…
Days when the weight and heaviness of reality is coupled by the
frustratingly helplessness of a losing battle of body …

img_0829
(dad on a bad day / Julie Cook / 2016)

And yet the turning of the calendar page always brings renewed hopefulness.
A new year,
a new day,
a new month,
a new hope…

The hospice nurse told us yesterday that things with Dad are status quo…
could be worse, could be better, and yet he’s holding his own–so far this day…
On another day, perhaps tomorrow, something else may come our way, something different…
but as for today, we will take “status quo”

Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain.
I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.

Psalm 3:2-6

Hello Goodbye

You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello
Hello hello
I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello

(Hello Goodbye-The Beatles)

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

― Alfred Lord Tennyson

DSCN0077
(fresh flowers for sale, Grafton St / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I wish you flowers.
I wish you blue skies
I wish you sun
I wish you warmth upon your face
I wish you peace of heart and peace of mind
I wish you health
I wish you joy
I wish you contentment
I wish you happiness
I wish you love
I wish you God’s Grace until the end of time….

I arise today
Through a mighty strength:
God’s power to guide me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s eyes to watch over me;
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to give me speech,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to shelter me,
God’s host to secure me.

St Bridgid of Gael