time for reflection

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”
William Shakespeare


(moi in 2013 / Julie Cook)

What are the types of things that happen to us in a year’s time?
What sorts of things take place to and or around us during the course of a year?

In my world, there were milestones, fieldstones, capstones and stone weights.

The greatest being a baby turned one as another baby came into the world.

And there were, for this small family of ours…

stress tests
epidurals
CT scans
MRIs
X-rays
ultrasounds
bloodwork
surgeries
healings
shots
medicines
waiting diagnoses
dental implants
additions
trips
trips to an ocean
trips to the mountains
trips to the city
family gatherings
quiet time
accidents
demolitions
updatings
hope
despair
surprises
growing
pruning
anniversaries
multiple ER trips
multiple Urgent Care trips
viruses
infections
food poisoning
haircuts
lost hair
purchases
sales
trials, literally
tribulations
disappointments
discoveries
tears
anger
laughter
solace
peace
good news
troubling news
bad news
sad news
happy news
new friends
old friends
new family
found birth parents
lost birth parents
welcomings
shunnings
new decades of life
frustrations
blessings
reflections…

And so here is to reflections…
May there be many more… that both come and go, in the next decade of living…

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to
completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6 ESV

the soul

The soul must forget about {understanding}, and abandon itself into the arms of love,
and His Majesty will teach it what to do next…

St Teresa of Avila


(blooming thrift / Julie Cook / 2018)

“The soul, who is lifted by a very great and yearning desire for the honor of God and the
salvation of souls, begins by exercising herself, for a certain space of time,
in the ordinary virtues, remaining in the cell of self-knowledge,
in order to know better the goodness of God towards her.

This she does because knowledge must precede love, and only when she has attained love,
can she strive to follow and to clothe herself with the truth.

But, in no way, does the creature receive such a taste of the truth,
or so brilliant a light therefrom, as by means of humble and continuous prayer,
founded on knowledge of herself and of God;
because prayer, exercising her in the above way, unites with God the soul that follows
the footprints of Christ Crucified, and thus, by desire and affection,
and union of love, makes her another Himself.”

St. Catherine of Siena,
An Excerpt From
Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena

reflections

“A man must find time for himself. Time is what we spend our lives with. If we are not careful we find others spending it for us. . . . It is necessary now and then for a man to go away by himself and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and to ask of himself, ‘Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?’ . . . If one is not careful, one allows diversions to take up one’s time—the stuff of life.”
― Carl Sandburg

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(lily pads hide the reflection of pine trees / Watercolor Resort / Santa Rosa, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

Reflections, as seen in a mirror or some other reflective surface,
echo that which is of the exterior…
It is a jumping point to the obvious and to the immediate observations being offered to those
who are in the direct range of view.

Reflections are safely accepted to be readily sized up, taken as carbon copies of the actual.
Assumed as safe and offering no surprises.

A question to ask ourselves….
Does the exterior reflect the hidden interior?

Does the truth hide behind a false reflection?
Is a false observation being offered to the causal viewer?
Do they see one thing with the inner self being something or someone else entirely different?

As a Christian, are we being honest and true in reflecting who we truly are?
Do we allow our reflections to be that of Christ or of someone we claim to be…
yet sadly fail to actually reflect?

We are charged to be reflectors…reflecting the light of Christ into a very dark world.

Do those who see us, meet us, observe us, be they close or be they far…
do they see the right reflection?

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason
for the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect…

1 Peter 3:15

Shortcomings

“When judging other people’s shortcomings, remember yours”
Leo Tolstoy

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(crucifix hanging beside the shrine to St Maximilian Kolbe, The Polish Museum, Rapperswill, Switzerland / Julie Cook / 2012)

I am always amazed when reading the writings of Christian theologians and clergy who were living in the midst of Hitler’s rise to power, as well as the chronicles of the holy living throughout the perilous struggles during the height of the war, all these many years later.

Living, preaching, teaching, writing, ministering to the faithful, as well as the faithless, during incessant bombings, times of disease, brutality, starvation. . .during times of hiding, as well as internment, while even facing certain death.

The perspective of their faith during such dire times is still so very relevant to our own time almost 80 years later.

That they could maintain a holy presence of mind while witnessing unspeakable atrocities.
That they could hold desperately to a faith during the days of ungodliness and devastating betrayal.
That they never wavered or buckled when the world had seemed to abandon all sense of hope and sanity.
That clergy, nuns and priests such as Father Maximilian Kolbe, who were murdered in the death camps, could continue to minister to their fellow prisoners while enduring horrific tortures–still able to sing songs of praise even when their mouthes were so utterly dry from starvation that not a sound could be heard.
Yet sing they did in their hearts.

I am always amazed reading the reflections written during such a different time and in such a different world which are eerily so timely still today.
And perhaps that is what makes me sad.
The continued relevance and timeliness.

Reading the words, not knowing that they belonged to a different era, the casual observer would no doubt be surprised that they were not written today.
Such are the reflections of Dietrich Bonhoeffer regarding the Christian Church prior to and during the war.

The following daily reading is taken from A Year With Dietrich Bonhoeffer and could easily be spoken today.
Pope Francis, during a recent visit to Turin, Italy in order to view the Shroud of Turin, gave a talk regarding the Church’s failings during the war noting that she struggles with her shortcomings of the faithful today. . .

The Sins of the Church
The church confesses that it has not professed openly and clearly enough its message of the one God, revealed for all times in Jesus Christ and tolerating no other gods besides. The church confesses its timidity, its deviations, its dangerous concessions. It has often disavowed its duties as sentinel and comforter. Through this it has often withheld the compassion that it owes to the despised and redacted. The church was mute when it should have cried out, because the blood of the innocent cried out to heaven. The church did not find the right word in the right way at the right time. It did not resist to the death the falling away from faith and is guilty of the godlessness of the masses. The church confesses that it has misused the name of Christ by being ashamed of it before the world and by not resisting strongly enough the muses of that name for evil ends. The church has looked on while injustice and violence have been done, under the cover of the name of Christ. It has even allowed the most holy name to be openly derided withou contradiction and has thus encourage that derision. The church recognizes that God will not leave unpunished those who so muse God’s name as it does.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Ethics 138-139

Storm clouds gather on the horizon

“In each age men of genius undertake the ascent. From below, the world follows them with their eyes. These men go up the mountain, enter the clouds, disappear, reappear, People watch them, mark them. They walk by the side of precipices. They daringly pursue their road. See them aloft, see them in the distance; they are but black specks. On they go. The road is uneven, its difficulties constant. At each step a wall, at each step a trap. As they rise the cold increases. They must make their ladder, cut the ice and walk on it., hewing the steps in haste. A storm is raging. Nevertheless they go forward in their madness. The air becomes difficult to breath. The abyss yawns below them. Some fall. Others stop and retrace their steps; there is a sad weariness. The bold ones continue. They are eyed by the eagles; the lightning plays about them: the hurricane is furious. No matter, they persevere.”
Victor Hugo

“The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but deliverance from fear”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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(clouds and sun vie for dominance over the skies of Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

There is a lovely little blog I follow and I do believe I’ve made mention of it before. . .
Dominus mini adjuror (The Lord is my help)
by Father Hugh Somerville-Knapman
http://hughosb.wordpress.com

Father Hugh is an Australian Benedictine monk living at Douai Abbey in Woolhampton Berkshire England.
http://www.douaiabbey.org.uk/index.html

I happened upon Father Hugh’s blog quite sometime ago and despite my not being Catholic, I greatly enjoy reading his posts, as he speaks to not merely the Catholic faithful, but to all of the faithful Christian flock. The only caveat is that Father Hugh is quite a busy monk and can only post as his time and schedule permit.

Father Hugh tells it like it is and I, for one, greatly appreciate that.
In an age of overt political correctness–where we are so terribly afraid to say anything as it seems anything and everything these days causes great offense—as ours is a society constantly in mea culpa mode-it is almost refreshing that there are those who see the world, warts and all, and will offer honest and truthful observation without fear of reprisals, boycotts, assaults, condemnation, social media backlash, etc.

It is the knowledge that Father Hugh’s reflections, those based from his observations of life in this world, are rooted in the fact that his words are steeped in the Truth of the Gospel and that his words merely echo the words of Jesus Christ.

It is Father Hugh’s posting today, “Voices Speaking Silence” that has left my heart deeply troubled.

Father Hugh brings to light a need in awareness of the continued brutal persecution of Christians by the militant Muslim group known as ISIS—or now simply referred to as the Islamic State (IS). It is noted in his post that the News outlets of this world choose not to report on, or merely choose to overlook, the growing number of persecutions of Christians but rather focus their attentions on the brutality unleashed upon other ethnic groups, many varying sects of Islam, as well as the continuing assault in Gaza on the Palestinians (and my question is why have we not heard of the sufferings of the Jews?)— With World attention being brought to these other groups, Christians in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran–as well as elsewhere in this fractured globe of ours, are being assaulted, tortured and killed in numbers that this generation has not witnessed—all going unnoticed, unreported, ignored.

Tortured, beaten, raped, kidnapped, crucified, beheaded. . .horrific atrocities that the World at large would normally rise up in arms against over such barbarism—and yet, what remains is only silence.

All of this, as the face of a young man, head shaven yet held strong and high, eyes tightly shut, mouth drawn down fighting the undeniable deafening fear that has welled up inside of him, is etched in my mind. The image of the young journalist James Foley, who in an orange prison jumpsuit, is kneeling at the hand of his executioner, who gleefully holds a knife. I have not, nor will I, view the video of his death as I am not drawn to witness the macabre—the image of him kneeling in the desert and of his resolute face, at the feet of a knife wielding man is enough to sicken me.

In this oh so modern, sleek, techno savvy and trendy 21st century of ours, that has our every need and whim complete and fulfilled at the touch of a finger, we unbelievably continue to witness the barbarism, such as beheadings and crucifixions, which belongs to the annuals of ancient history.

Not only are those of Western culture at risk for the reprisals and retributions of jihadist terrorism but it is the Global Christian Community that is at greatest risk— not for proselytizing, not for preaching, not for the distribution of clandestine Bibles, but rather simply for believing.

The broad scope and vast number of Christian deaths as a result of simply believing is at such a number that it rivals the days of the Roman Empire.
The following excerpt taken from an article in The Spectator, by John L Allen Jr. dated October 5,2013 echoes these numbers and statistics.

According to the Pew Forum, between 2006 and 2010 Christians faced some form of discrimination, either de jure or de facto, in a staggering total of 139 nations, which is almost three-quarters of all the countries on earth. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed in what the centre calls a ‘situation of witness’ each year for the past decade. That works out to 11 Christians killed somewhere in the world every hour, seven days a week and 365 days a year, for reasons related to their faith.

In effect, the world is witnessing the rise of an entire new generation of Christian martyrs. The carnage is occurring on such a vast scale that it represents not only the most dramatic Christian story of our time, but arguably the premier human rights challenge of this era as well.

My question for all of us is how much longer will we pretend that all of this is happening “over there” and has no bearing on our lives here–wherever here and there may be.
How much longer will we continue to ignore the statistics?
How much longer will we allow our Politicians to overlook and our News media to ignore the persecution of Christians as a real and present danger?
How much longer will we remain silent?

May we be mindful that persecution is not always physical.
Will the stifling of the Christian voice in America and throughout Europe, due to the rise of intolerable secularism, be a final straw. . .

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.
2 Corinthians 4:8-11

When life’s reflections, once far, become startling near

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

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Canadian Goose afloat on the waters of the Boston Harbor / Julie Cook / 2014

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This image is from a small portion of a memorial to the fallen soldiers of the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq–upon stumbling on this makeshift courtyard memorial, just in the shadow of the historic North Church, I caught myself suddenly filling with an overwhelming feeling of emotion–the myriad of tags gave a startling and tangible image of what had been simply numbers—the massive amount of tags, which filled several wire filled walls, equalled suddenly and painfully lives, mostly young, which have seemingly needlessly come and gone—sons, daughters, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers. . .for a war on terror which only seems to be spiraling out of control.

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These two images are from a power pole which is wrapped with a simple crochet reminder of the Boston Marathon Bombing. The crochet piece is wrapped around the power pole on the spot where the second explosion detonated. It has been lovingly placed by an individual in memory of one of the several victims of a senseless act of terrorism–on a simple side walk in front of a handful of restaurants on a single street in a massive city. Reminding us all that no matter where we may be, anything and everything can happen to change our world forever. May we be mindful that God has given us now. That is all we are promised. The next hour, the next day, the next week may bring life altering events beyond our comprehension and control—-it is today, at this very moment that we are to Rejoice and proclaim the Glory of God. For the God of all of Creation is Greater than any act of violence or evil which attempts to batter and beat our faith.

May we all remember that Love is indeed greater than hate.