give my your Light

“Everything becomes more and more itself.
Here is joy that cannot be shaken.
Our light can swallow up your darkness;
but your darkness cannot now infect our light.”

C.S. Lewis


(they take the bulbs and shades…so life is in the dark / Julie Cook / 2020)

Transition seems to bring about a variance of both light and dark.
I can have a lamp, but without a bulb or electricity, I have only darkness.

The same remains true for the soul.
If there is no light, there is only darkness.

We pray for light.
Give us you light oh Lord…

“In me there is darkness,
But with You there is light;
I am lonely, but You do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with You there is help;
I am restless, but with You there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with You there is patience;
I do not understand Your ways,
But You know the way for me.”

“Lord Jesus Christ,
You were poor
And in distress, a captive and forsaken as I am.
You know all man’s troubles;
You abide with me
When all men fail me;
You remember and seek me;
It is Your will that I should know You
And turn to You.
Lord, I hear Your call and follow;
Help me.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

king for a day or king for life—it’s a choice

“It is better to be a child of God than king of the whole world!”
St. Aloysius Gonzaga

“It is necessary to have an absolutely sure intention in all our actions,
so that the generous fulfillment of our daily duties may be directed
toward the highest supernatural ideal. Thus, our life, apart from moments of prayer,
will be a prayerful life. It is clear that the habit of giving an upward glance
to God at the moment of action is a great assistance in aiding us to
behave always with a pure intention and in freeing us from our natural impulses
and fancies, so, that, retaining our self-mastery, or rather,
God becoming the sole Master, all our movements become dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
We see in the Gospel that whenever our Lord was about to undertake some important step,
He always paused for a moment to raise His eyes to Heaven,
and only after this moment of recollection did He take up the work He had to do.
‘He lifted up His eyes to Heaven’ is a phrase that recurs with significant frequency.
And doubtless, when there was no outward sign of this prayer,
there was the inward offering. The ideal is the same for us.
The constant subjection of self to the guidance of the Holy Spirit
is made easier from the fact of His presence in the soul,
where He is asked explicitly to preside over all our doings…
We shall not submit wholeheartedly to the invisible Guest unless
He is kept in close proximity to us.”

Raoul Plus, S.J., p. 37-8
An Excerpt From
How to Pray Always

where you can find all the answers

“Only in Christ can men and women find answers to the ultimate questions
that trouble them.
Only in Christ can they fully understand their dignity as persons created
and loved by God.”

Pope St. John Paul II


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2020)

“There is nothing to be dreaded in human ills except sin—not poverty,
or disease, or insult, or ill-treatment, or dishonor, or death,
which people call the worst of evils. To those who love spiritual wisdom,
these things are only the names of disasters, names that have no substance.
No, the true disaster is to offend God, to do anything that displeases him.”

St. John Chrysostom, p. 334
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Church Fathers

at home…with God

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy,
the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

C.S. Lewis


(our home in December 2017 during a winter storm / Julie Cook)

As we prepare to move homes…from a house we built to one we did not,
I have become keenly aware of what it means to be rooted as well as somewhat uprooted.
What it means to be sheltered.
To be comfortable.
To feel safe.

Yet that’s not always the case for many of our sisters and brethren.

For many, there is no sense of stability.
No sense of security nor well-being.

So within the melancholy I’m finding in leaving,
there is a greater sense of gratitude.

If a house can feel emotion, which we know it cannot, my desire would be that this house
could feel our deep level of not only a bittersweetness in leaving but more importantly,
that it could sense our level of thankfulness for the years of shelter, safety,
and rootedness it provided.

And so it is within this flood of emotion…the type of emotion that only transition
can bring…of which I know is not coming from the leaving, the going, or the coming that
is the root of my unsettledness…it is the longing I have for “home”—
a longing for a home that transcends this world.

I know that our hearts, none of our hearts, will be at rest until we find
ourselves embraced in the arms of our Father…


(Julie Cook / 2019)

The peace coming from the Holy Spirit is more than relief from suffering,
a sense of well-being, or a sense of equanimity.
It is rooted in a deep sense of home, home amid the cosmos
(which we who have faith know is being at home with God).

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.
from Christ vs Satan in Our Daily Lives

So much change yet so much anticipation…

There is a rich parallel between farming soil and spiritual soil.
It’s no accident that one of the most important virtues of the Christian life is humility,
a word that stems from the Latin word “humus”, meaning “earth”, or literally, “on the ground.”
Humility is a virtue required of men and women alike,
and truly the one virtue all the saints hold in common.

Carrie Gress and Noelle Mering
from Theology of Home II: The Spiritual Art of Homemaking


(early January 2020 / the sun comes up over the ocean / Julie Cook)

I took the above picture almost exactly a year ago to the day.
It was early January 2020…

2020.

Let that soak in.

A year, that before it would blessedly come to a close, we would all eventually grow to loath.

Yet on this particular morning in January of 2020, it was just a quiet walk along the beach.
Life was life.
Peace was found in the rhythmic sounds of an undulating surf that simply
was breathing in and out.

We had yet to hear of words such as Wuhan, COVID, Coronavirus, pandemic,
lockdown, masks, George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, riots, protests, CHAZ, socialism,
radicalism…
words that would soon come washing over us like a callous Tsunami.

There was however already the nauseating media circus over an impeachment proceeding…
but had we not all basically grown somewhat numb to the media’s OCD obsession over
all things Trump?

And who could have known that a year ago, when life seemed typical and average…we would find
ourselves, a year later, yearning and pleading for things to be just that…
simply typical and average?

I learned a long time ago to be cautious about wishing one’s life away.

On a collective whole, we have all grown to hate the year 2020.

Oh there are some who had joy throughout the year, but we haven’t
heard much about that joy or the positive milestones nor of the blessings.
Rather we have been inundated with the negative, the darkness, the isolation
and the death.

And so the collective thought is for a good riddance to 2020.
Yet in that good riddance, we must be both willing and open
for welcoming in a new and unknown.

So my prayer on this new day of this new and unknown year is appropriately
from the Book of Psalms…sung prayers.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.

Psalm 143:8

A Happy NEW year to us all!

“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

finding God in all sorts of places…

“We must always remember that God does everything well,
although we may not see the reason of what He does.”

St. Philip Neri


(part of a bilboard is visable from where we parked for a pick up order from Longhorn’s / Julie Cook / 2020)

We had worked all day in our attic…sorting the boxes and plastic tubs of our younger lives.
What to keep, what to toss.

The art of a toddler, the 1950 bank files of my dad, my mom’s 70’s stylish readers,
my dad’s 1930’s coloring books, my husband’s father’s WWII pictures…
Yet the dust and decay took a toll on my sinuses–just like like white on rice…
oh wait, is that colloquialism considered passe PC in this culture of ours???

Anywhoo…

After a full day’s work, we opted to order supper to go from our local Longhorn.

When we pulled into the parking lot, finding a parking spot, I couldn’t help but
notice a rather prominent portion of the billboard hiding just behind the neighboring McDonalds.

The word GOD drew in my attention.
I wonder, had others noticed the same sign, the same word?

Our life is a gift and a giving to others; therefore it is joy at a profound level.
Anyone who seriously makes this idea his own and begins to practice it will find it to be true;
he will discover that the will to live it out, that is, to accept everything as a gift from God,
can transform our life right down to its roots.

Hans Urs von Balthasar
from You Crown the Year with Your Goodness

love, family, holiness

“O Holy Family—the Family so closely united to the mystery which
we contemplate on the day of the Lord’s Birth—guide with your example
the families of the whole earth!”

Pope St. John Paul II


(Bartolome Esteban Murillo / circa 1660 / Hermitage Museum)

Joseph, the man tapped by God to be the earthly father of Jesus,
is more or less an enigma…just as he remains an enigma in
ecclesiastical history.

As a preteen, after Jesus was lost from the family’s caravan having hung back in Jerusalem to
visit the Temple following the family’s pilgrimage for the festival of the Passover,
we simply don’t hear /read much more regarding Joseph or of his presence in the boy Jesus’s life.

By the next time we hear about Jesus, he is a grown man who has a predestined meeting
with John the Baptist for baptism.
It is simply assumed that Joseph must have died, leaving Mary a widow.
And oddly, throughout the ages, artists have more or less depicted Joseph as an older man…
as we know that Mary was a young woman when she was engaged to Joseph.

Perhaps that has been the rationale…Joseph was older and therefore passed
away when Jesus was just an adolescent.
But I wonder…was he really that much older than Mary?

There seems to be more questions about the man Joseph than there are answers.
And perhaps that is all part of the Holy mystery that embraces our lives.

But the one thing I know…
the most important thing that we do know, is that Joseph had to be
quite the man to be chosen by God the Creator to be the earthly father to God’s only son.

The example of a man as to what a father is meant to be…
the type of man that our sons and daughters so desperately yearn for in their lives.

Our children, now more than ever, need their fathers.
Joseph reminds us of this.

“Love is an excellent thing, a great good indeed, which alone maketh light
all that is burdensome and equally bears all that is unequal.
For it carries a burden without being burdened and makes all that which
is bitter…sweet and savory.
The love of Jesus is noble and generous; it spurs us on to do great things
and excites us to desire always that which is most perfect.”

Thomas à Kempis, p. 87
An Excerpt From
Imitation of Christ

East to West, West to East…and a very Merry Christmas to all!

The journey of the wise men took them from the east to the west…
and that’s the journey that Christianity took.
It started in Israel and it moves to Rome, the capital of the world.

Dr. Edmund Mazza
from Rediscovering Christmas


(ode to my world / Julie Cook / 2020)

Is that a bunch of presents, all tied up with a bow?
Oh.
No.
No, it’s not.
Wait, where’s the tree???
Is there a tree??

Yes, it’s in the basement, ready to be loaded on a truck.

What you’re seeing is just a small snippet of boxes and bubble wrapped pieces all
from a home ready for moving.

Who moves during a pandemic?
Obviously, we do.

This will be our last Christmas in a house that has witnessed 21 of our 37 Christmases.
Yet we’re off to see the Mayor and Sherrif for Christmas…so the cats will have to
carry on Christmas day without us.

The catnip is locked up!

The quote I used today by Dr. Mazza is somewhat technically true.
Things did seem to travel from east to west.

I somehow think that our Orthodox brethren might be able to agree on that eastern part—
as when we think of the east…we think ‘Eastern’ Orthodox…
However, they might dispute that notion of Rome being the capital of the world as
that capital kind of moved, at some point in ancient time, to Constantinople
(modern-day Istanbul)–

And of course it did sort of move back Rome’s way before it began heading off west again, spiraling, splintering and dividing– but I digress…
So we’ll just leave that footnote to be argued by the theologians and historians.

And so here I am in the west, preparing to move to the east.
Perhaps a bit backward…however by going east, I might just be heading back homeward.

Things are beginning to look barren and sparse.

Before:

After:

So as I live amongst the boxes and now travel over to share a magical time with both
the Mayor and Sheriff–
just know that I wish each of you a joyous, safe, healthy, and blessed Christmas!!!

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be
taken of the entire Roman world.
(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria).
And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea,
to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
He went there to register with Mary,
who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby,
keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is the Messiah, the Lord.
This will be a sign to you:
You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel,
praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,
“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby,
who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread
the word concerning what had been told them about this child,
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things
they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

Luke 2:1-20

I love nurses–they exemplify everything God would like to see in us, His children.

Augustus was the son of a god and he asked the whole human race to swear loyalty
to him as “Father”.
It’s at this moment that God the Father sent the real Son of God into the world…
God works His providence even in the midst of human foibles.

Dr. Edmund Mazza
from Rediscovering Christmas


(Vampire day, again / Julie Cook / 2020)

Well you may remember my tale from about a month ago…
my tale about having to go siphon off an entire pound of blood due to being a
Hemochromatosis carrier.

A hemo what you ask…??

Well, it seems that my body hordes iron.

And who knew that the body only uses what it needs—if there is excess,
well, the body simply stores it up in the organs…where it sits.
Think of a balloon simply filling up with more and more air…
eventually, something has got to give!

The high end of a normal iron level in the blood is 150.
I was sitting at 330…therefore, I have to be milked like a cow in order to
bring my levels down.
Sadly, I do not do well with giving blood.
I never have.
My blood pressure tends to bottom out and I basically get quite sick just before I pass out.

So yesterday was once again vampire day.
I had to go give blood.

I go to the hospital’s infusion center.
Folks are here for their chemotherapy, needed antibiotics, phlebotomies,
needed fluids, steroids…you name it.

Many are cancer patients.
They walked slowly and were pale.
They were minus all hair and bundled up due to the cold.

Many were on walkers or canes.
They were both young and old.

Four of us are divvied up into a quad with hospital chairs in each corner of the quad.
Some curtains were drawn some were not.

The nurses greeted each patient by name.
Many knew the regulars…mainly those who were the chemo patients.
“Hey darling” you’d hear a warbly voice call out to a familiar nurse.

The rapport was enough to make you feel that you were missing out
on some glorious secret friendship.
I felt almost envious as there were many
“I love yous” and “I love you too”—each sincerely and genuinely shared.
An intimate special moment shared between caregiver and patient…
human being to human being.

“Honey, you want me to get you something to drink?”
“How bout a ginger ale?”
“How bout a diet ginger-ale…it’s all we have.”
“That would be perfect!”

Some patients had recently undergone amputations due to infections or diabetes.
They were there to receive high-powered antibiotics.

“Mr. Gentry, we’ll see you back here on Christmas day, ok?”
“Christmas Day, really?!”
“Yes sir, we’ll be here…and so will you, you hear me?!”
“Well only if you wear your hair down…”
It seems that elderly Mr. Gentry, getting about on his walker, is a bit of a rounder
with these ladies—and they all seemed to love it.

He had part of his foot amputated this past week after having cut his foot this past summer
at the lake while playing with his grandkids.
These nurses were all well aware of his hijinks and played right into his devious intentions.
Mr. Gentry needs high-powered intravenous antibiotics every day for a couple of weeks.

I was enjoying soaking in these conversations all the while as I was slowly losing a part
of myself into a plastic bag dangling on the floor.

I really do ok up until the very end of my time being hooked up like a gas pump.
Right before I’m finished filling up the bag, that’s when things go downhill.

And true to form, today my BP fell to 63 over 34.
And true to their form, the nurses who saw all color fade from my body, came racing over
in order to flip my chair up so I was practically on my head,
they next threw a cold washcloth on my head.
They handed me a green puke bag…which thankfully I did not have to use.
My curtain wasn’t drawn and I would have hated being the show of my quad.

All of this was taking place while the nurses changed out the lines and immediately
began administering a bag of fluids.

It is amazing what these fluids can do.

I go from passing out and near-death to right back to the life of the living.

Slowly my BP climbed, but then oddly it dipped again.

This time it didn’t rebound like it did last time.
I didn’t rebound like I did last time.

The nurse had to walk me out to my car this time as I was still a bit woozy headed.

“Go straight home.”
“But I need to go to the grocery store.”
“Do that later!”

But before the nurses pulled my head up off the floor, one nurse came by each chair in our quad
and handed each patient a simple candy cane.
She made certain that each patient saw the story printed on the wrapper…
the story of the candy cane.

You can say what you want to say about Christianity and spirituality within such a setting…
You can throw in your sarcasm about faith in fairytales…but I will tell you one thing…
the folks in those chairs each appreciated their candy cane, mattered not their faith or creed–
they appreciated its story and the fact that one human being was offering hope to those whose
hope was starting to run on empty.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
1 Peter 4:10

Oh do, let us come adore HIM!!

Christmas must mean more to us every year,
and we must not be afraid of immersing ourselves in its joy.

Mother Mary Francis
from Come, Lord Jesus


(my mom’s porcelain carolers / Julie Cook 2014)

Yes, let’s be not afraid—not afraid to sing our praises to the birth of our Savior.

Adeste fideles
læti triumphantes,
venite, venite in Bethlehem
natum videte
regem angelorum.
Venite adoremus,
venite adoremus,
venite adoremus,
Dominum.

O come, all ye faithful,
joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold him,
born the king of angels.

Refrain:
O come let us adore him,
O come let us adore him,
O come let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

2 True God of true God,
Light of light eternal,
our lowly nature he hath not abhorred;
born of a woman,
here in flesh appearing.
[Refrain]

3 Sing, choirs of angels,
sing in exultation,
sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above:
“Glory to God,
all glory in the highest!”
[Refrain]

4 Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
born this happy morning,
Jesus, to thee be all glory giv’n;
Word of the Father,
begotten, not created.
[Refrain]

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant
Author (attributed to): John Francis Wade; Translator: Frederick Oakeley (1841; alt)
Tune: ADESTE FIDELES