prayer and the victory over death

“There is nothing the devil fears so much, or so much tries to hinder, as prayer.”
St. Philip Neri


(it is so hot and dry here, even the toadstools in the woods are swiveling and decaying/ Julie Cook / 2019)

Yesterday I spoke of the running thread of a single word and thought that just
seemed to keep popping up at each turn and corner.

That word and act would be that of prayer.

And so again the following morning, my incoming quote of the day focused
on that very same notion.

Prayer.

As St. Philip Neri teaches, Satan fears our very prayers.
They become a hindrance to both him and his plans so therefore he painstakingly attempts
to hinder us as we long to reach out to our Father.

We become busy.
We become distracted.
We become distant.
Or we simply grow hardened.

So often we feel defeated when our prayers seem to go ignored or unanswered—
And yet even worse, we can grow despondent when they appear to be answered in a
way so utterly contrary as to how we would have hoped.
When our oh so deeply prayerful “please yes” is answered with a gut-wrenching “no, not today.”

No to healing.
No to life.
No to avoiding the bad and painful.

And yet our hearts remain steadfast because despite the answers,
despite the bitter disappointments, we still know that our prayers are our
only means of conversing with our God.

St Athanasius’ quote below adds to this thought by examining the
fear man has with death and decay.
Because if the truth be told, are not so many of our prayers aimed at avoiding
that very thing?
As we fervently pray to avoid death, pain and suffering at any and all cost?

Man sees death as the inexplicable chasm of separation.
That of isolation, loneliness and unending sorrow.

The non-believer scoffs and belittles the simplistic pleas and petitions
of the believer as he cries out to that unknown and unseen God.

The un-believer mocks and sneers at the childlike actions of the believer.

And yet I have often wondered…in that single solitary moment of overwhelming grief,
unbearable sorrow, engulfing fear and isolation of abandonment…
who does that non-believer cry to?

Who does he turn to in that micro-moment of the blinking of an eye that exists between
living and dying?

Whose hand does he reach for?
Whose arms does he yearn for to envelope him?
To whom does he cry out?

Or is his mind merely an empty void, his ego too full, his heart so hard that he has
already withered with decay?

Yet despite the ridicule and vitriol, the prayer of the humbled believer will
always be for that hardened non-believer…
it will be a prayer for blessed deliverance…
a prayer that he would find solace, comfort as well as Grace.

Even to the end, the believer prayers…even for the sake and soul of the non-believer.

“Now, man is afraid of death by nature, afraid of the decay of the body.
But here is a startling fact: whoever has put on the faith of the Cross
despises even what is naturally dreadful, and for Christ’s sake is not afraid of death.
So if anyone is skeptical even now, after so many proofs,
and after so many have become martyrs to Christ,
and after those who are champions in Christ have shown scorn for death every day—
if his mind is still doubtful about whether death has been brought to nothing and come to an end—well,
he’s right to wonder at such a great thing. But he should not be stubborn in his skepticism,
or cynical in the face of what is so obvious.
Let him who is skeptical about the victory over death receive the faith of Christ,
and come over to his teaching.
Then he will see how weak death is, and the triumph over it.
Many who used to be skeptics and scoffers have later believed,
and despised death even enough to become martyrs for Christ himself.”

St. Athanasius, p.15
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Church Fathers

“in suffering, God gives strength’

It is extremely liberating to know that God never demands more of us that we can give him.
He is always content when we do what we can.
The only important thing is that we never give up,
that with a holy stubbornness we do what we can.

Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen
from The Holy Spirit, Fire of Divine Love


(our little pecan trees are bearing their fruits / nuts slowly / Julie Cook / 2019)

“There is another reason also why the soul has traveled safely in this obscurity;
it has suffered:
for the way of suffering is safer, and also more profitable, than that of rejoicing and of action.
In suffering God gives strength, but in action and in joy the soul does but show its own
weakness and imperfections.
And in suffering, the soul practices and acquires virtue, and becomes pure, wiser, and more cautious.”

St. John of the Cross, p. 149
An Excerpt From
Dark Night of the Soul

making the invisible, visible…

Because God is love, and we are made in his image and likeness, our relationships should
reflect him in the world.
This, perhaps, is the greatest form of evangelization:
to make an invisible God visible to the world through our love.

Jason Evert
from Purity 365


(a butterfly at the Butterfly House, Callaway Gardens / Julie Cook / 2019)

“Indeed, the glory to which God raises the soul through grace is so great that even the
natural beauty of the Angels is as nothing compared with it.
The Angels themselves wonder how a soul that was sunk in the desert of this sinful earth
and robbed of all natural beauty can be clothed with such a wonderful splendor.
But this wonder of the Angels will not surprise us when we see and hear that God Himself
considers the beauty of grace with astonishment and rapture.
For how otherwise can we explain what He says in The Canticle of Canticles to the soul:
‘How beautiful art thou, my love, how beautiful art thou!’

(Cant. 4:1).”
Fr. Matthias J. Scheeben, p. 133

temptation and humility

“God wishes us to be meek even toward ourselves.
When a person commits a fault, God certainly wishes him to humble himself,
to be sorry for his sin, and to purpose never to fall into it again;
but he does not wish him to be indignant with himself,
and give way to trouble and agitation of mind; for,
while the soul is agitated, a man is incapable of doing good.”

St. Alphonsus De Liguori, p. 259
An Excerpt From
The Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguori


(lone plover / Rosemary Beach/ Julie Cook / 2019)

At this point, it is extremely important to keep in mind that a person is not bad
because he has a temptation.
Many believe, because they have a temptation to pride, to avarice, to hate, to lust,
that there is something wrong with them.
There is nothing wrong with you if you are tempted.
You are not tempted because you are evil; you are tempted because you are human.
There is nothing intrinsically evil about human nature just because a little devil knocks
at the door.
Evil begins only when we open the door and consent to the temptation.
Scripture praises the man who suffers temptations. When we resist temptations,
we strengthen our character.

Ven. Fulton J. Sheen
from Life is Worth Living

Confession, good for the soul? Actually, more like the saving of the soul.

“Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin.
All hope consists in confession.
In confession, there is a chance for mercy.
Believe it firmly,
do not doubt,
do not hesitate,
never despair of the mercy of God.”

St. Isidore of Seville


(one of the many confessionals inside of St. Peter’s Bascillica / Rome, Itlay / Julie Cook / 2018)

Confession, it is said, is good for the soul.

And I must say, I agree.

Confession comes readily to some.
For others, not so much.

It can be the swallowing of one’s pride, position or place.

To confess is to become less than the ego, less than self…
it means to become humble before all or simply before God…but most likely before both.

It is the ability to admit wrongdoing or a habitual shortcoming.

It is often hard and difficult and yet, it is so utterly obvious.

Mercy rests in confession, as well as Grace.

May we seek Mercy.

May we seek Grace

“When we are living in the world, we can easily take on the mindset of a secular society.
It is important for us to cultivate in our lives, with great care,
God’s way of looking at things and life in general.
His Word guides us.”

Rev. Thomas J. Donaghy, p. 22
An Excerpt From
Inspirational Thoughts for Everyday

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

prayers for dear Percy


(my little boy / Julie Cook / 2019)

We’ve come a very long way.
A very very long way….in 8 short years


(the dying kitten that found us in 2011 / Julie Cook)


(a cleaned up and slowly healing baby / 2011/ Julie Cook)

If you’re not familiar with how this dear member of our family came to be a part of our family,
here is a link from 2013—two years after he had become ours:

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/my-best-friend/

In a nutshell, Percy, short for Perseverance, was thrown from a car,
smacking either a sign or the pavement.

He was a kitten that would fit in the palm of one’s hand.

He had a broken nose.
A broken eye socket.
A smashed mouth full of broken teeth
All of the skin was gone from the left side of his face…
he was covered in maggots and with what I call death flies… all by the time
we had found one another…
or actually by the time he had found us.

Long story short—
he lived!

Despite there being no guarantee he’d live,
he survived and he thankfully thrived.

Hence his name—Perseverance—Percy for short.

It’s amazing what love can do.

It was not easy in the beginning as he had to have rounds and rounds of strong antibiotics
and multiple surgeries while only being a few weeks old.

Over the years, we’ve had to have a tooth pulled here and there…teeth that were still
broken and would eventually become infected.

There have been some urinary issues so there is a special diet.

And due to a lack of teeth, he is more or less an indoor cat…
with the back deck being his backyard.

Plus, after all we’d been through, keeping him inside was a better option for my nerves…
just as I suspect it has been best for all our birds.

A few months back, one morning I noticed Percy walking with a very pronounced limp.
I took him to the Vet and an x-ray later revealed a torn Achilles tendon in his back left leg.

It would be about a $4000 surgery and we’d have to go to either
Auburn’s or Georgia’s Vet Schools for such a specialized surgery.

I went to Georgia and our Vet went to Auburn…sigh.

Neither the money nor time was not on our side due to my having to help on and off over
in Atlanta with our granddaughter Autumn (aka The Mayor)— so I thought we should
keep him as immobile as possible for as long as possible allowing for rest and healing.
Praying for the best.

Low and behold, the leg did heal…well, at least for the most part.

The tendon would never be the same, but blessedly, he was walking without a limp…
however he was now “flat-footed”—cats jump from the ends of their feet…
think off their tiptoes.
Percy was coming up off what I call his back knee, what the Vet calls ‘the hock.’

He had long worn all the fur off of both his back “knees” to this long-standing issue
with both tendons that we were unaware of…
his left leg is the worst of the two “knees” and it recently began to bleed.
The calloused skin was wearing thin.
It could no longer absorb the shock of jumping and landing.

Add in his fastidious licking to the point of being OCD and
he was licking the wound raw.

Another trip to the Vet.

This time she kept him and proceeded with a mini surgery…
cleaning out the wound while attempting to sew the existing skin together.


(Percy with his origianl wrapping following surgery / Julie Cook / 2019)

He kept the bandage on for a few days before jerking it off.

We went back for it to be re-wrapped.

This has now been an on-going, week after week, ordeal…
all over the course of a month.

I’m now changing out the bandages as he’s pulling and biting them off as
fast as we get them back on.

However last night I noticed something troubling.

We were back at the Vets bright and early.

The skin on “the knee” is gone and the tendon is now exposed.

Ideally, the Vet told me that Percy would need to go to Auburn for a skin graft but
with our waiting on a baby to arrive any minute now, that is not an option.
She knows this and told me she would do another surgery.

She’d pull the skin as tight as she could over “the knee”
while stitching it together with stronger sutures.
She would even put him in a cast if she thought it would help.

She then told me she would need to keep him for about a week if not longer…
keeping him in a cage and as still as possible, allowing the surgery to do its job
without him jumping up and down off that knee.

He hates the Vets.
He shakes, is scared and a nervous wreck.
He usually won’t eat if he’s there.

He loves his mommy as he sits in my lap at every opportunity and
snuggles against my back at night.

I left the office and cried the entire drive home.

Percy is more or less my life here at home.

He has decided that whatever is Autumn’s is in turn naturally his.

I think that any time we “rescue” an animal, an animal that happens into our lives on
a wing and a prayer, they become innately intertwined in our beings.

We care for them as babies and we nurse them back to life…practically willing them to live.
And more often than not they, in turn, thrive, making them some of the best pets
we could ever ask for.

I think they truly know the toll their nurturing back to health takes on our own lives,
psyches and hearts, in turn, they are genuinely grateful.

It may be silly for me to ask, but I am asking anyway…I’m asking for prayers for Percy.

Prayers for Percy’s healing of his knee/hock and also for a sense of peace in his spirit this
week while he’s kept away from home, stuck in a cage in a strange place…way out of his
comfort zone.

I’m also asking for prayers for our latest family’s addition to be, baby James.
I pray that he will arrive readily, happy and healthy..and if his mother might add, soon.
Prayers for our daughter-n-law as she prepares to go through this delivery business one more time…

Prayers also for a 14-month old little girl whose neat and tidy little world of
being the single shining light, is about to be turned upside down.

Prayers for mom and dad…and prayers for a worn out grandmother and grandfather!

Thank you!!!

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10