crag

“Benedicto:
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you — beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”

Edward Abbey

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(Little River Canyon State Park, Alabama / Julie Cook / 2016)

You have sustained me in the shelter of Your hiding place…
that place set off from all that is…
That secret place where You alone in silence wait….
Waiting for my return…

But the Lord has become my fortress,
and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.

Psalm 94:22

update… day 6 in ICU

I wanted to let you all know, those prayer warriors out there, that our niece seems to be holding her own.
Last word from my sister-n-law, late this afternoon, is that Chrissy actually opened her eyes today—the first time since Friday.
She is still very heavily sedated as she continues on the ventilator.
Her vital signs have stabilized and she is no worse…yet not quite on the road to better…
but the positive gains, be they minuscule and barely visible, have provided much hope.
Isn’t it amazing how something tiny and barely detectable can send hope soaring…

I do ask that we all keep the family from Nebraska, whose little boy was killed this week at Disney by an alligator, in our thoughts and prayers. That family is in desperate need of our focused prayers and abiding love.

“But there is greater comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question.”
Thomas Merton

Flown the coop

“Those who have courage and faith shall never perish in misery”
Anne Frank

Amazement awaits us at every corner.
James Broughton

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(the house wren’s empty nest on the tractor, under the tarp / Julie Cook / 2016)

Amazing…
on so many different levels…
simply amazing…

Let’s take a small diversion from the current reign of havoc, or is that rain of havoc, or merely both….anywhooo….

Away from the havoc which has been beset upon us in these most recent of days..diverting ourselves away in which to wander…

Wandering away ever so slightly from that which is directly in front of our eyes…to that which is somewhat removed…
Blessedly and amazingly removed.

Yet, we must take note, it is to be no less, simply amazing.

And maybe since it is somewhat removed, tucked away and elusive in nature…
it is all of that, and so much more, which adds to the sheer amazingness of it all…

Let us now wander away to the world of the amazing…

On Sunday, 3 days ago, this empty jumble of leaves, with the giant hollowed out hole in the middle, was a dizzying beehive of activity.

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The stakes were high.
For there were five hungry mouthes which had to be fed.
We were all made keenly aware of this one important fact.
Life was suddenly all a flutter, literally.

Squawking and screeching two very busy parents hunted, pecked, chirped, sung, guarded, protected and fiercely chased away any friend or foe from the home of their 5 tiny offspring.

Not only had they labored to construct, dare we say craft, this amazing conglomeration of sticks,
leaves, feathers and fuzz…
they had selected a most safe, protected and hidden site in which to set up house.

Birds are amazing that way.

They worked tirelessly almost undetected…all but for the presence of a busy bee bird who could be seen darting, scurrying ad flitting here and there.
Eggs were silently laid and kept warm…unbeknownst to the unsuspecting nearby humans.

Yet all of that changed at hatching time.

Nonstop, two parents labored in order to gather enough food to raise up their alienesque brood.
Five oversized beaks flapped open, as 10 bulbous closed orbs protruding from wobbly heads,
continued to develop.

There would be silence…then as soon as a parent neared,
the inharmonic din of chatter began.
It was as if the sound translated into a clamoring repetitiveness of
“feed me, feed me, feed me…feed us… NOW”)

Then this past Sunday the nervous frenzy reached a crescendo.
As the tiny aliens mysteriously sprouted feathers as heads began to match bodies as wings took shape.
The parents were now worked into a fevered pitch as babies, turned fledglings, were soon to spread their wings. Mom and Dad were keen to create a safe zone, free of humans, cats and others
as their children would need some room to roam…safe yet free.

And just like that, it is…..now over.

“Did they fly away??” you pensively ask.

Well… I truthfully can’t say.

It’s as if one day they were there and the next day they just weren’t…

We’re they ready?

I’d like to think so.

As birds and their Divine Creator are each amazing that way….

The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing

Zephaniah 3:17

Sacrifice and Silence

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

Isaiah 53:7

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(a contented sheep / The Cliffs of Slieve League / County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

It is finished…
The deed is done.
The trade off is complete.

It couldn’t have been swift nor easy…
No, it had to be drawn out and wrenching…
There had to appeasement, propitiation, satisfaction…

A slow sadistic lingering…
Torment was the only demand…
The satiation for the hunger of death

With each and every misdeed, slight, wrong and heinous sin…
Those that were and those that continue on…
Each grievous act was marched before him…
As each piece of flesh was torn away for payment…

The nails were driven.
The body convulsed.
The pain seared.
The blood flowed.

Gone now are the crowds.
Gone now are the faithful.
Gone now are the skeptics.
Gone now are the hopes….

As only silence permeates the earth.

And so now, we wait…

O God, you sent Christ Jesus to be my shepherd and the lamb of sacrifice. Help me to embrace the mystery of salvation, the promise of life rising out of death. Help me to hear the call of Christ and give me the courage to follow it readily that I, too, may lead other to you.
This I ask through Jesus, my shepherd and guide.

People’s Companion to the Breviary, Vol. II

upside down

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
Lewis Carrol

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(Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

Some told lies while others told truth…
And sorting out the difference was pretty cut and dry

Yet that was long ago…and all of that was then…

Everything now has been turned wrong-side up and upside down…

With right becoming wrong and wrong becoming right
All that once mattered has turned woefully out of step.

“It’s ok” they say and “its now all alright”
“Everything goes” so there’s no turning back.

For God was sovereign, this much we knew
But the lies began raging, replacing Him with you

While buying-in has now become the thing to do….

If you’ve lost your voice and your tongue seems stuck,
hurry quick and speak on up…to this world turned upside down…

For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
Romans 16:18

What is truth

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
― Flannery O’Connor

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(Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

Truth…
an explanation or reflection of fact
The definitiveness of reality
No maybes, no what ifs, no possibilities
Only black and white
Clear cut
It is what it is….
Nothing more, nothing less.

Yet not all facts, not all reality, not all what it is, is… are welcomed.
Truth can be difficult, even painful.
It can be hard and humbling.
There are those who wish to distort, alter, change Truth…
Making it, the Truth, little and their own.

The Word of Truth was eventually made flesh
The flesh lived in the Word of Truth
There would be, could be, no denying Life as Truth.

Yet the Truth was perceived as difficult and hard…
It was disliked and greatly resented.

However Truth is Truth…
It has a way of exposing all that is veiled in false reality
Those steeped in the falsehood of deceit and the selfishness of half truths, fought the living Truth.
It was decided that Truth had to be destroyed.
Truth was quickly and readily betrayed.

The Truth, in the life lived, was uncomfortable, it was despised and even rejected.
How is Truth, that which is, the reality of fact, to be rejected and ignored?
How can facts and reality, all of what is, is…simply be dismissed and denied?
How can Truth, which is the black and white of plain sight, be disfigured, misconstrued or perverted?

There were lies and distortion, twists and bends.
Attempts to disprove the embodiment of Truth…

However all the lies, all the altering, all the denying, all the twists and the bends failed.
Truth persisted.
It was not to be denied.

The Life of Truth was then thought to be the key.
Silence the Life, silence the Truth…
The Life of Truth would have to be destroyed.
For if there is no Life, there is no Truth.

Yet the Truth would not, could not be silenced.
Truth could not, would not be easily nor neatly disposed of in Death.
For Truth has a way of persisting, remaining even triumphing over Death itself.

There continues to this day, those who labor to deny, to alter, to change, to warp,
to rewrite and to bend the Truth….
Preferring to live the lies, the half truths and the falsehoods of distortion, deceit and selfishness.

Yet Truth has a way of persisting, even outlasting all that which is not of Truth itself.
It outlasts all the lies, the distortions, the selfishness, the bending, the rewriting and the altering…
For in the end, that which is reality, black and white, plain and simple…
that which is of the Truth of the Word and of the Life lived through the Truth…
will be the only thing to endure….
Not even Death can deny the Truth…

“Today not only in philosophy but in politics, government, and individual morality, our generation sees solutions in terms of synthesis and not absolutes. When this happens, truth, as people have always thought of truth, has died.
Francis Schaeffer

Essential oneness

For what is Mysticism?
It is not the attempt to draw near to God, not by rites or ceremonies, but by inward disposition?
Is it not merely a hard word for ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is within’?
Heaven is neither a place nor a time.

Florence Nightingale

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(morning light at an inlet harbor near Sligo, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The desired oneness of the created bound to the Creator.
A bridging of the here to the there.
A crossing of the chasm between You and me…

Beyond the noise, beyond the distractions, beyond the life of this world…
He is there…as I am here.
Yet it is in the stillness and the silence within…as well as without,
where He waits…

Pulled and torn from this and that, I struggle to work my way towards Him…
It shouldn’t have to be this difficult, this hard…
but the world won’t allow anything other than her own desires…

It has become a life’s quest…
A fractured journey which consists of splinters and pieces…
The longing of wholeness found in the joy of One…

Savagery vs Decency

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

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(window in the chancel house at the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I’m beginning to feel, as well as sound, like a broken record…

Once again there is a report that ISIS, IS, Daesh, whatever you wish to call this steely precision machine of evil, has once again wielded swiftly the hand of hate and destruction over all of Christianity in Iraq. They have rendered the oldest Christian Monastery in Iraq, the 1400 year old St Elijah’s Monastery, to nothing more than dust.

The monastery was built between 882-590 AD by the Assyrian Christian monk Elijah and has been a place of worship and refuge for Christians well before the Great Schism divided Christianity into the Latin West and the Orthodox East…as it dates to the earliest days of The infant Church.

It was back in March, almost a year ago when I wrote another similar story about the dire situation taking place in Mosel with the systematic killing and destruction of any and all things Christian at the hands of the barbaric members of the Islamic State.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/blood-of-the-lamb/

And almost a full year later, nothing has been done or said…the oh so hoped for cry from the global community… which would be heard, as it is shouted out loud from every roof top around the globe, in hopes to raise a real and substantial global concern…sadly remains in large part…silent.

Oh we hear a snippet of a story here and there, yet there are more reports about who’s been nominated for an Oscar and who is boycotting the awards show due to a case of colorblindness, yet the steady and systematic destruction of all things Christian throughout the Middle East, the very birth place of our faith, is being eliminated into oblivion with nary a whimper.

Why?

Here are the latest news offerings…with even the Pentagon weighing in, claiming that the destruction of the monastery is simply one more “battle of savagery against decency…”

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35360415

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/01/20/isis-destroys-iraqs-oldest-christian-monastery-satellite-photos-confirm.html?intcmp=hpbt2

http://news.yahoo.com/only-ap-oldest-christian-monastery-073600243.html

“Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 1:17-19

The weight of silence

“In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”
Mother Teresa

Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you,
remember Christ crucified and be silent.

–St. John of the Cross

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(grave marker, St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

There is nothing more crushing, more suffocating, more humbling, more welcoming…
nay more invigorating than Silence.
It is penetrating, lonely, encompassing, exhilarating and greatly needed.
Silence is soothing, healing, teaching and utterly necessary.

Yet it is feared.

It is avoided and fought with the frantic filling of each and any void with noise…
Loud, raucous and incessant…
Jabbering nervous nonsense…
Anything to stave the penetrating and uncomfortable knowingness of Silence.

For it is more familiar and more knowing than self ever dares on its own

There is a sickening dread and queasy uneasiness because vulnerability is glaringly exposed…
Yet there is truth within it’s vast and sweeping depths…
As truth must be fully purged if one is ever to become pure.
It is required if one is ever to hear the stillness found
in the presence of the The Great I AM

But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”
Habakkuk 2:20

Glendalough, boardwalks and getting lost in Ireland

“Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord:
His going forth is prepared as the morning”

Hosea 6:3

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(a stand of beautiful ash trees, Glendalough in the Wicklow National Park / County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Walk up to the monastery, take a little look around then head left past the church, going on up to the trail head…take the first right…this will lead you to the boardwalk.
The boardwalk will take you to the upper lake where you’ll be greeted with quite the view—it’ll be about a 20 minute easy walk up then 20 minutes back…”

“Will you be coming with us?”

“No, no, I’ll be right here waiting on you when you get back…
Now off you go…”

Meandering through the tiny pig trails which crisscross through the overgrown knee high grass and brambles, all of which offer any casual observer a sense that a fuzzy patchwork blanket had recently been spread across the land, a seemingly long forgotten cemetery sits frozen in time. This once sacred site, littered with ancient and not so ancient graves, beckon to both pilgrim and tourist to come lose oneself in the mystery of time.

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(graves litter the ground of St Kevin’s monastery / Glendalough / Julie Cook / 2015)

Stones worn by rain and time now stand as lonely sentinels to what once was. Many are in disrepair, dangerously listing to either left or right and terribly skewed off balance.
Despite the overcast skies, the honey bees busily buzz around the flowering and ripening blackberries reminding all that life indeed continues even amongst the departed.

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(rippening blackberries / Julie Cook / 2015)

After wandering through the long lost stone remnants of the 6th century celtic monastery founded by St Cóemgen or better known to the Anglican speaker as St. Kevin, we made our way to the trail head which, after a short jaunt by the lower lake, would take us gently upward for a spectacular view of the two lakes for which Glendalough is so named.

Walking past the lower lake we are greeted by the serene sight of deer grazing on the opposite side of the lake…and something even more amazing…
a joyous and peaceful silence.
Blessed beautiful peaceful silence.
No planes, no cars, no motorcycles—just the wind rustling through the leaves and the sounds of birds chattering overhead.

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(a group of fallow deer grazing / Glendalough / Julie Cook /2015)

Continuing on our way we come upon a fork in the trail. Stopping at a sign which points right for a 1.6 km hike upward along the lower lake or straight for a 1.4 km hike upward through a lush canopied forest…we ponder our choice.

Rationalizing our limited time and desire to see as much as possible, we opt for the best of both worlds…it made perfect sense, or so it seemed–we’d take the path leading into the forest, straight up for the journey upward and hit the boardwalk tail for the decent downward.

A no brainer.

As we began our upward journey, we soon noticed that the terrain was changing. No longer was the walking trail smooth–it was now narrowing and littered with meandering roots and stones. Stumbling a bit and tripping over the roots, we pressed onward.

“I’m not dressed for this. . .” one in our party grouses.

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(the beginning of an upward journey / Julie Cook / 2015)

Up and up we wander, suddenly realizing that we’re very much alone, as in the other hikers and tourists seem to be now long gone or have mysteriously disappeared. It’s just the three of us and a vast forest reaching ever upward.

Hummm….

“Isn’t it odd that nobody else is around…?”

“What time is it?”

“Well past the 20 minutes it was suppose to take us to the top”

Now huffing and puffing it appears as if the trail has begun to switchback rather sharply indicating we were heading up quite the mountain trail… oddly we had noticed a sign a bit of a ways back pointing to what must be an abandoned mine…
“Lead mine this way”

“Where’s the lake???” we simultaneously ask

“Where’s the view??

“What’s a lead mine?”

“Where they mine lead, duh”

“Way up here?!”

HUMMMMMM…

“I wish I’d brought my bottle of water.”

“It’s well past 20 minutes.”

“Reckon we ought to keep going?”

“He’s going to kill us if we don’t find the lake!”

“Who cares, I’m tired and I don’t have on the right kind of shoes for this.”

“Is that rain I feel?”

“I need to go to the bathroom”

“I think you can pick a tree for that”

“Did anyone bring a Kleenex?”

“I just thought this was a quick little stop to see a lake!”

Ya’ll stay here and I’ll go on up to the next turn to see if there’s any sort of clearing, lake or view. I’ll holler for ya’ll to come on up if I see something, otherwise I’ll come back and we’ll just go back down the way we came.

“Deal” the other two offer in unison as the relief of a brief respite is lost on no one.

Heading up the now very narrow tail, all I can see is switchback after switchback with trees still looming overhead. Certainly nowhere near the top and with nary a view in sight.

Part of me longed to keep going, straight to the top, proper shoes or not, as I’ve lived long enough to know of the sorts of rewards that await those who persevere upward…
yet my two traveling companions were having none of it and were more than ready to head downward…after all this was just our first day on this amazing journey and we’d certainly not built up any sort of traveling stamina just quite yet…and anyway, lunchtime seemed to be calling.

Slowly we began our decent while little by little the trail opened up.
Tiny waterfalls trickled down the hills as lush vegetation greeted us each step of the way

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(Glendalough / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Irish clover / Julie Cook / 2015)

Catching a view of the lower lake only added an exclamation point to the moniker “the Emerald Isle, as a delightful peace descended over three weary souls…

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(Glendalough / Julie Cook / 2015)

Finally back down to the part of the trail that thankfully looked familiar, we glance the now infamous boardwalk to our left.

“Guess we should have just taken the boardwalk in the first place huh?”

” Oh I don’t know…I think what we’ve seen has been pretty darn great!”

“And doesn’t the air just feel so good? So much cooler and better than home…!”

Finally catching a familiar glimpse of St Kevin’s tower, we breathe a gentle sigh of relief as we can rest knowing the safety of the parking area and our van is happily close at hand.

“I guess we need to confess we missed the boardwalk and the lake…”

“Reckon he’s going to be worried, it’s been like what, two hours since we left…?”

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(the remains of St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Oh I don’t know, maybe that’s the point…just to let go and to lose ourselves…”

Lose ourselves or not, I’ve still got to go to the bathroom!…”

And thus began a marvelous adventure…or perhaps more aptly put, a marvelous misadventure of a lifetime….

…Time and nature have both joined together, allowing all who traverse this area a rare gift—one does not have to ponder long as to why St. Kevin chose this particular place in which to seekout God—anyone stopping long enough, to simply bask in the peace while listening to the engulfing silence, will actually hear the whispers of a Creator’s magnificent joy. . .

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(the grounds of St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough / Julie Cook / 2015)

***Glendalough, meaning “the valley of the two lakes” is a beautifully serene area nestled within the Wiclow Mountains National Park, County Wiclow, Ireland. Only about 1 to 2 hours south of Dublin.
Glendalough was home to a once thriving celtic monastic community founded by St Kevin in the 6th century.