the mystery in misty memories

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved
and where all your yesteryears are buried deep,
leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can.
Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour
because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones,
vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud,
formidable from a distance.”

Beryl Markham


(a misty rising of the superman / Julie Cook / 2017)

(a timely tweaked re-post from 2017)

Whispers slip out from scented branches…
all while caught lingering between twinkling lights.

Each bauble, each ball, each special tangible memory calls out from ages past…
transporting the now to the then.

Broken, chipped, bent or faded…it matters not–
the flood of what once was cascades down upon the unexpected.

Voices long since silenced are suddenly as clear as a bell…
as a clock chimes upon a stocking draped mantle.

Each box, now reopened once again…
as each unearthed trinket is removed…
dusty and now worse for the wear from the years of in and out,
dangles precariously on a needle encrusted branch…
bridging both space and time…yet caught between a sea of red and green.

A story line begins to unravel….as a tale of love, loss and even hope sits
arranged, ever just so, inviting all to come behold.

For better or worse, we begin again…
Carrying on with and without…
and if we’re lucky, year in and year out…
a Mystery breaks through the barriers of both life and death.

And we are the better for that Mystery…

“The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty.
A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery.
We retain the child in us to the extent that we honor the mystery.
Therefore, children have open, wide-awake eyes,
because they know that they are surrounded by the mystery.
They are not yet finished with this world;
they still don’t know how to struggle along and avoid the mystery, as we do.
We destroy the mystery because we sense that here we reach the boundary
of our being,
because we want to be lord over everything and have it at our disposal,
and that’s just what we cannot do with the mystery…
Living without mystery means knowing nothing of the mystery of our own life,
nothing of the mystery of another person,
nothing of the mystery of the world;
it means passing over our own hidden qualities and those of others and the world.
It means remaining on the surface,
taking the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated
and exploited, and not going beyond the world of calculation and exploitation.
Living without mystery means not seeing the crucial processes of
life at all and even denying them.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

Homesick

“I felt a pang — a strange and inexplicable pang that
I had never felt before.
It was homesickness.
Now, even more than I had earlier when I’d first glimpsed it,
I longed to be transported into that quiet little landscape,
to walk up the path, to take a key from my pocket and open the cottage door, to sit down by the fireplace, to wrap my arms around myself, and to stay there forever and ever.”

Alan Bradley

“Give me the waters of Lethe that numb the heart,
if they exist,
I will still not have the power to forget you.”

Ovid

God is at home,
it’s we who have gone out for a walk.

Meister Eckhart


(sheep on a teaching farm / County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

(given my lack of sleep as of late, I found this previous post from 2016 worth repeating)

A fitful night…
dreams seemingly more real than not…
To wake…
On and off, over and over…
as the dream simply picks up where it left off.
A continuous movie playing out inside my head, all night long…

Trying desperately hard to find you, to call you…
Yet I can’t reach you.
I am there, not here…
but I am lost…
I need for you to come find me…
for it is only you who can help me….

Yet why is that?
Why do I seek you and your help?
Are there not others…?
Others even more capable…
Those who are more near and not so far away…?

Waking….
Perplexed, exhausted, wondering…
What ever does it mean…
or not mean…?
As the thought,
the memory,
the utter physical uneasiness…
hangs heavy over the day.

Homesick, yet here at home.
Missing and longing…
Aching for something else…
someplace else…
something more…
Yet what could it be…and why…?

You are there and I am here.
A melancholy heaviness clouds my thoughts.
It was all but a mere brief crossing of paths.
Yet with a lasting effect.
There was a change.
Deep and profound…
And I am the better for it…
Yet there remains a yearning, a hunger, an aching…
for more…

So very much more.
For hearing,
for seeing,
for feeling,
for learning.

Yet frustration is found in the simple being…
of being so very far away…

My soul yearns for you in the night;
in the morning my spirit longs for you.
When your judgments come upon the earth,
the people of the world learn righteousness.

Isaiah 26:9

fleeting

It’s a moment that I’m after, a fleeting moment,
but not a frozen moment.

Andrew Wyeth


(a store window seen in Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2021)

Fleeting– the opposite of lasting or enduring.

That which is brief, momentary or transient.

Much like the still images taken from a strip of film.

Frame per frame-
Sequence by sequence-
Moment by moment-
As black and white images blend to a tonal pallet of grey…
each frame is its own static story of something or someone
that has preceded the current moment of time, thus becoming
nothing more than the past…a past that becomes now motionless.

These junctures in time, these single breaths of life, may each be
caught and thus captured… and in turn,
become a single entity of both space of time
as they are now ‘saved’ for a time to be.

They simply become moments frozen in an everlasting vacuum of
continuance…allowing that which was to become
a part of that which is as well as that which will be.

Thus these physical and tangible moments, which
each come and are quickly gone, now only add to our own
individual continuum of time.

And so we ponder…

Are not these someones or somethings…
these moments and persons which are each captured in
writings, recordings or even videos and photographs…
are they not more or less paralyzed…as in immobilized…
void of all movement and action… rendered lifeless
and thus resulting in the transcending of time…because time
has indeed thus stopped.

Or has it merely been paused…resulting in the ability to resume the
moment?

Oh how we yearn to resume such moments and individuals.

Images each recorded and saved…poignantly yet painfully reminding
us of that which was is now simply no more…
and is rather just traded to that of a memory.

And so we continue to wonder…
do these captured moments of both places and persons–
places and persons who may or may not be known to those who are
now viewing or reading or hearing them,
do they not give way to segments of a larger juncture or turning point?
All of which now afford anyone and everyone to read, hear,
see and even share in what was?

As in…do not these captured moments simply allow anyone and everyone
who comes across such, to be able to partake in each individual or thing…
while interpreting them uniquely from each individual’s vantage point?
Invoking shared emotions despite the images not necessarily being our own?

A single active event or person…all of that which once was…
now gives way to the actions of anyone’s and everyone’s life as the
past becomes the present and, if we are so fortunate, the future.

It is a collective sharing of both space and time of that which once was
for some, being that of memory, now becoming the active imagination of another.
and thus fleeting no more…

“Your poor heart, in which God put appreciation for everlastingness,
will not take electronic gadgets in lieu of eternal life.
Something inside of you is too big for that, too terrible, too wonderful.
God has set everlastingness in your heart.
All the things of this world are here for but a moment and then are gone.
None can satisfy the longing for that eternal ragging in the soul of every man.”

A.W. Tozer, And He Dwelt Among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John

I want to go look for America

Nothing can illustrate these observations more forcibly,
than a recollection of the happy conjuncture of times and
circumstances, under which our Republic assumed its rank
among the Nations;
The foundation of our Empire was not laid in the gloomy age
of Ignorance and Superstition,
but at an Epoch when the rights of mankind were better understood
and more clearly defined, than at any former period,
the researches of the human mind, after social happiness,
have been carried to a great extent, the Treasures of knowledge,
acquired by the labours of Philosophers,
Sages and Legislatures, through a long succession of years,
are laid open for our use, and their collected wisdom may be happily
applied in the Establishment of our forms of Government;
the free cultivation of Letters, the unbounded extension of Commerce,
the progressive refinement of Manners, the growing liberality
of sentiment… have had a meliorating influence on mankind
and increased the blessings of Society.
At this auspicious period, the United States came into existence
as a Nation, and if their Citizens should not be completely
free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own.

[Circular to the States, 8 June 1783 – Writings 26:484–89]”
George Washington, Writings


(Bald eagle in flight over the James River/ Parks Rountrey)

Is it just me???

I suddenly have a great desire to hop in the car and take off.

Taking off into the great unknown.
I want to go off on some grand American adventure.

I want to go find America.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that this nation of ours has been shut down
for basically a year and a half…and in many parts,
she is still shut down.

Maybe it’s because this nation of ours is now at
some surreal war with itself…

I want to see for myself if we are still out there…is this great nation
I’ve always known, still out there…alive and well?

Or has she become a mere ghost of herself?

Many years ago, when our son was little, we decided to take him on
our small version of the great American family vacation.

Sadly we all know how such family vacations often play out.
The parents are typically enthralled while the kids are usually bored
to tears.

And that’s pretty much how it played out for us.
The pictures of smiling parents with a smug kid in tow.

However we wanted our son to see things we knew that were the wonders of
this great nation of ours.
Wonders such as the Grand Canyon, the rugged coast of Maine,
Yellowstone and Old Faithful, the Great Salt lake,
the lands of the American western Indians,
true free spirited roaming buffalo, the settlements of Jamestown,
The Outer Banks and Blackbeard, the painted desert, the petrified forest,
the Grand Tetons, the Snake River, the raw lands of Alaska,
the endless corn fields of Nebraska, the Rocky Mountains…
So we got in the car over the course of several summers and drove..
and in some cases, we flew then drove.

We wanted our son to see parts of this nation other than his own
home in Georgia.

During those formative years, we took him to the west,
the southwest, the north, the northwest, the northeast, the southeast,
while traversing the middle of this great land.

I suspect as parents, we might have enjoyed these trips more than our
preteen son but in the end, we knew he needed to see our country outside
of his own narrow world—all because one day, he would appreciate that
he had seen all these things…he would have a reference point when
thinking about this country as his home.

I know that not all kids have such opportunities…
nor do all adults…
But getting in a car and driving just seemed to make sense.
He probably would have been happier to just spend time at the beach..
but there was just so much we wanted him to experience.

We did what we could as his parents to expose him
to as much of this country as possible—because we wanted him
to see America.
We wanted him to see what our forefathers knew was worth fighting for.
Why a Revolution was fought, why a Civil war ensued, why we have sent young men and women to various wars all in order to preserve this somewhat “perfect union”.

And perhaps to understand this current struggle with our past.

In my little bio on the “About” page of this blog I mention
that I enjoy traveling.
“I also possess a tremendous passion for travel as I feel traveling
helps to make an extremely large and diverse world a little friendlier–
as it calls for understanding and empathy which are results of spending time
in someone else’s “world”—
as all of us on this planet share a very similar human history and relationship—
the things that make us more alike than different are those ties that bind
together rather than separate…”

Spending time in someone else’s world…
Isn’t that what makes those little connections with others?
We begin to see others not as different but as more alike.
Connections that allow us to understand one another??

Yet today sadly, I know that we can’t just hop in the car and take off.
Not today, not now.

Gas prices are on the rise, the pandemic still holds some states
as prisoners while others are being liberated.
And despite being vaccinated, masks are still required,
social distancing is still a thing and freedom of movement
is actually not so free…it is limited at best.

Throw in a mass influx of illegal immigrants and the notion of safety,
in some of our border states, becomes a serious issue.

Add in the continued violence from Marxists and Anarchist groups
such as Antifa and BLM overflowing in many or our Nation’s major cities..
and so visiting some of our major cities is not even an option.

So hopping in a car while hitting the wide open highways,
in order to go see America, is simply now a pipe dream…

However I wonder…if I did get to go out and see this America of mine,
I wonder what exactly I would find…

Most likely a rewritten history of a nation’s past along with
a now very uncertain future.

Is this land really your land and my land…

always remember, end well

“See, my children, we must reflect that we have a soul to save,
and an eternity that awaits us.
The world, its riches, pleasures, and honors will pass away;
heaven and hell will never pass away.
Let us take care, then.
The saints did not all begin well; but they all ended well.
We have begun badly; let us end well,
and we shall go one day and meet them in heaven.”

St. John Vianney


(a lone iris / Julie Cook / 2021)

When a person sacrifices his life out of love for God,
by allowing God to send him on a given mission or by enduring martyrdom
or by allowing himself to be completely diverted from his own plans and intentions,
it is love that moves him to do so.
This love cannot be equated with the love that people have
for one another, which moves them to regular acts of love of neighbor.
Rather, this person is so gripped by the God who loves him
that his gift of self—however long or short God intends it to be—
bears in it the mark of eternity.

Adrienne von Speyr
from her book The Boundless God

Okay, you can’t see the glue right??

“Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most
undesirable sentiment.
If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and
address yourself to the task of behaving better next time.
On no account brood over your wrongdoing.
Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.”

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


(you can’t even tell, I don’t think / Julie Cook / 2019)

Well, guilt is a powerful tool.

At last, my moment of weakness arrived…so I must confess…
I have relented.

I didn’t lie to you.

My intention was certainly a BIG no to this year’s tree…
but…
there were those faces, those words, those insistent voices.

It was one of those things, as I started the day, that I had not even contemplated.
It never crossed my mind that I’d be doing “this” for the remainder of the day,
well past dark.

Yet I had gotten plenty of proddings from those both near and far…
And I suppose it was indeed a sense of something missing, as I’d peer over to an empty
spot that was the ghost space of Christmas trees past, that pushed me this morning.

I marched up to that dreaded closest and pulled out that dreaded tub of
broken angels and tiny little nutcrackers.
Old ornaments of all the Christmases past.

I pulled out my various glues and got comfortable at the kitchen table.

I sorted through survivors and the debris.

I next text my husband’s friend, unbeknownst to my husband, and asked if he could
come by sometime today in order to help my husband haul up ‘that tree’ from the
confines of the basement.

He giddily text back a triumphant “YES!”

Now I know I told you that I did manage to put up the outside lights.
That was an all-day affair on the coldest day of the year thus far.
All by myself.

The neighbors have always guilted me with that as well as they would go into
my husband’s business asking when were the lights going up.

What is it with people and the lights????

I had rationalized that if the outside of my world could appear as if Christmas
was alive and well,
no one would be the wiser to what was missing on the inside.

But yet, there were a few who were the wiser.
And yes…even I was wiser.

Be they here at home or now in their own home, I think it’s the comfort of knowing
“it’s” still there.
That home is still home.
And that all is right in the world of “home” is what truly matters.

“It” is always blessedly there whether we are, or they are, here or not…
It’s that sense that life is as it should be…carrying on as if everything is
forever a constant.

The constant of the happy warm memories of what was.
Forget the bad and painful.
Forget the negative or even the current.

It is to the warmth of fond memories that the heart of a child,
now locked deep inside an adult, runs to.

There is a sense of permanence, of rooting and of anchoring found in those types
of memories.
The true essence of how we came to be who we are…for good or for bad.
For it is of the kinder memories we cling to of how we came to be.
We seem to need them in order to be reminded of them.

And so today became the day that I gave up or rather gave in.

Today, the warmth of Christmas came home…
whether anyone is here to see it or not.

Christmas comes and they will always know.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
Galatians 4:4

Exchanging the present for the future

“In everything, whether it is a thing sensed or a thing known,
God Himself is hidden within.”

St. Bonaventure


(self fungus grows on the end of a fallen cut tree/ Julie Cook / 2019)

“What made the holy apostles and martyrs endure fierce agony and bitter torments,
except faith, and especially faith in the resurrection?
What is it that today makes true followers of Christ cast luxuries aside,
leave pleasures behind, and endure difficulties and pain?
It is living faith that expresses itself through love…
It is because of faith that we exchange the present for the future.”

Pope Benedict XIV, p. 205
An Excerpt From
Witness of the Saints

Freedom and slaves on the 4th

“You will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve YOUR freedom.
I hope you will make a good use of it.”

John Adams

“Act as if every day were the last of your life, and each action the last you perform.”
St. Alphonsus Liguori

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

We often give up our freedom because freedom means doing things for
ourselves, which is a great bother.
We stop working for ourselves and work for someone else who will take care of us.
We stop ruling ourselves because it is easier and even safer to have someone else rule us.
We stop thinking for ourselves because we find it simpler to have someone else think for us.
Then we wake up one morning and find that we are slaves to institutions that are
far out of our control.

Dale Ahlquist
from Knight of the Holy Ghost

I wonder if one day, in the not so near future, it won’t be considered, not only bad form,
but actually an unpardonable sin, to celebrate our own 4th of July—
that of the marking of the beginning of what was to become a great nation?

We seem to be on a hell-bent precarious and most dangerous path of self-righteous indignation
against what made us who we are today…be that a good making or now what many perceive to be
a bad making.

This week, the giant sporting goods maker, Nike has had to pull it’s new Betsy Ross sneaker–
before it even hit the shelves in anticipation of a patriotic 4th—
all because of a now-former football player who has deemed that our flag, our anthem,
and our very country is each a symbol of racism.

This coming from a young man who was raised by white parents in a life of middle-class privilege…
and yet he speaks knowingly of what it is that represents an oppressive past as if he
had lived that experience.

The city council in Charlottesville, Va has voted to no longer recognize the birthday of her
favorite son, Thomas Jefferson, due to his having owned slaves.
Lest we forget that he reportedly fell in love with one of those slaves…
and wrote of his desire to better the lives of enslaved people.

Statues have been removed, emblems taken down, mottos erased and pasts now painstakingly silenced…
all because people are imposing the 21st-century mindset on the mindset of those who lived
hundreds of years prior—those who lived the life they knew and not one of our modern hindsight.

Yet our goal is to expunge our past, at any and all cost- so help us…
(remember, we must not say ‘so help us God’ because that too is no longer acceptable)

Yet erased or not, our past will remain our past.
And the fact is that we are no longer those people.
We have become a better people…that is, until now.

Our current obsession seems to rest in a long ago and thankfully long abolished
use of human beings as free laborers at the hands of
both benevolent and cruel men.

The marketing of men and women bought and sold by other men and women.

Slavery sadly came as part of new world discoveries as old world ways depended on the
strong backs of men, both free and not free, to build a new world.

Slaves had been in the Carribean hundreds of years prior to the establishment of our colonies,
working on the sugarcane plantations for the Spanish.
The British, French and Dutch each soon followed suit.
As we know that Africans sold their kinsmen to both the white men of Europe as well as to the
brown men of the Middle East.

Slavery sadly was not, nor is it, something new.

Today we actually see a new form of slavery taking place…the market of human beings
for that of sex trafficking.

And so we must ask ourselves in this ongoing debate over reparations, are we willing to pay the
countless families, who have lost loved ones as sex slaves?
Those individuals who now must use their bodies in most profane ways at the
expense of others?

This as voices now demand that we pay the families of former black slaves.
Yet how do we determine who was slave and who was owner?

What of the Jews who escaped to the US following WWII?
Those who had either survived the death camps or simply the remaining families
who had lost loved ones, do we or does Germany owe them?
What of those who worked as slaves for the Nazi regime and those who simply were killed?
Should the Germans now pay the families of those who were lost in the gas chambers?

And what of the countless Russians in gulags…those from the days of Communist regimes?
What of the countless numbers of Chinese and Koreans who are imprisoned for
simply expressing free speech.

Who pays their families?

The list is endless.

And it is in the endlessness in which the absurdity is found.

As America begins to wade through the tit for tat of minutia…
fighting over what and who we once were while trying to rewrite it all…
we have actually lost who and what we are—and that is a people who overcome hardships
toil and sorrow while picking ourselves up and having moved forward…all
in order to build a better tomorrow.

Tragically we are now so busy attempting to erase our past, that we’ve forgotten
the very real future that needs us.

Patriotism was once part and parcel of calling oneself an American.
We grew from what was to what might be…

And yet it now appears we are desperately trying to fall backward as we now associate
patriotism with that of racism.
All of which simply makes us slaves to our past.

Yet in all of this, be we free man or slave… there is but one truth that remains…
that in Jesus Christ, the global family of Christian believers,
there is neither slave nor slave owner…
but only freedom for all men and women.

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.
What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?
Those things result in death!
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God,
the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

Romans 6:20-22

It only takes a sign

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.
This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
‘I am has sent me to you.’”

Exodus 3:14


(James / Julie Cook / 2019)

So the past couple of weeks have been absolutely crazy as well as exhausting.

We had another bit of a scare yesterday morning with our little fellow concerning a
potential liver disorder…and so another trip to the pediatrician has us
thankfully monitoring for the time being rather than doing something much more serious.

This little brother is proving to be a far cry from his big sister…
as he is just more fragile and not as seemingly tenacious…

And speaking of The Mayor, she is none too keen having this new usurper in
her midsts.


(first outing for the Mayor and new sheriff—pizza for the family / Julie Cook / 2019)

I’ve spent the better part of the last three weeks in Atlanta with a drive or two home
for a day of rest and regathering.
Nerves, for all of us, have been both frayed and raw…
Fatigue, exhaustion, and worry have dominated our days and nights.

So since I have been driving back and forth over these past many weeks,
two small rural church signs have caught my eye…

The first sign:
God is speaking.
Are you listening?

The second one:
I Am is coming

Both signs piqued my tired soul’s interest.

The first sign offered a good wake up call.

For despite my willy nilly running around all frantic, coupled by a self-absorbed burden of worry…
I fear I’ve not been listening…I’ve not been listening to anything around me let alone
listening to the Great I AM.

Secondly, when I initially saw this second sign, I had to do a quick double take…
because grammatically I was a bit perplexed…

I.
am.
is.
coming.

I am is…??

Huh??

And then it dawned on me….ahhhhh….

The great I AM is coming…

And it was in those two statements that I found a sudden rush of calm along with a sense of
great humility.
Because it was twice the Great I AM spoke to my weary soul.

The One who is greater and bigger than any burden or worry I may have on this earth.
He sees.
He knows.
He hears.
He is listening.
And He is present.

Sometimes it only takes a sign…or two.

For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

past, present and future

“The Future is, of all things,
the thing least like eternity.
It is the most temporal part of time–
for the Past is frozen and no longer flows,
and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.”

C.S. Lewis


(a 1980 replica of an original glass medallion in the ornate ceiling of The Hermitage Hotel /
Nashville, TN / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Among the various indications that make the holiness of God known to men,
the most convincing sign is the holiness of men, who are sanctified by the divine indwelling…
In teaching us the words, ‘hallowed be Thy name,’ our Lord also bids us,
when we pray, to ask that God may be glorified by our lives.
The sense of the prayer is this: ‘Grant us so to live, that all men may glorify Thee through us.’
God is sanctified or hallowed in the minds of other men through us,
to the extent that we are sanctified by Him.
Hence when we say: ‘hallowed be Thy name,’ we pray, as Cyprian remarks,
that God’s name may be hallowed in us.
Following the lead of Christ, who says: ‘Be holy, because I am holy,’
we beg that we, who have been sanctified in Baptism,
may persevere in the state in which we began.
Furthermore, we pray daily to be sanctified in order that we,
who daily fall, may wash away our sins by a constant process of purification.”

St. Thomas Aquinas
p. 350-51
An Excerpt From
Aquinas’ Shorter Summa