when man reaches up towards Heaven…

“Spira, spera.”
(breathe, hope)
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart…

I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…

(Lyrics from Christina Perri A Thousand Years)


(Pieta by Niccola Coustou / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)

Notre Dame—Our Lady of Paris

850 years of–

Christianity
faith
religion
spirituality
mysticism
relics

history
ingenuity
construction
architecture
labor
sacrifice

art
sculpture
poetry
prose
music
colored glass

revolution
desecration
coronations
funerals
burials
weddings

bishops
nuns
confessions
monastics
saints
sinners

humanity
bloodshed
loss
wars
peace
victories

humankind
survival
life
death
breath
hope…

Yet for now, there are too many emotions to express regarding this collective sense
of sorrow, grief and loss.

Our frail and feeble earthly attempts to reach upward to God will each eventually perish
while fading to both ash and dust…

and yet…

Our Heavenly Father’s reach, downward to us his children, will remain for eternity…


(detail of Virgin and Child by Antoine Vassé / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the iron work on the main entrance doorway / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the central portal (central enterance) of Notre Dame Cathedral / The Last Judgment, constructed in 1220/
Julie Cook / 2019)


(vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(South Rose Window / 1260 / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook 2019)


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of flying buttresses and gargoyles / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of bell tower / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2011)


(south view of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / 2011)


(Wesrtern facade of the bell tower entrance Notre Dame Cathedral /Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

“He therefore turned to mankind only with regret.
His cathedral was enough for him.
It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least
did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence.
The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him –
he resembled them too closely for that.
It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at.
The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and
kept watch over him.
He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues
in solitary conversation with it.
If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

God consciousness

Paul believed that in the whole field of Christian experience the first
step is with, and remains with God.
Thought, feeling and endeavor must find their basis and inspiration in,
the sovereign mercy of God.

Duncan Campbell


(image of Rodel Chruch, Lewis and Harris courtesy the web)

A couple of weeks back, my friend David, over on Ebbs and Flow, offered a couple of posts
regarding a bit of obscure history in his recounting of the tale of the
‘Revival in the Hebrides.’

This “revival” actually took place on the island of Lewis-and-Harris
during a time period running from 1940-1953.

I was not familiar with this “revival” but my curiosity was piqued–so I ordered the two books
David had recommended regarding this spiritual phenomenon.

The impetus…two elderly octogenarians, one blind, literally laid on the floor prostrate
before God immersed in a state of deep and earnest prayer…seeking a promise.
They did this for three nights each week until their prayers were fulfilled.

David offers a bit of background…
These ladies carried a burden so great that they prayed on their faces in front of the
peat fire in their crofter’s cottage three nights a week.
Three nights a week for months on end these two ladies persistently cried out to God in Gaelic
claiming a promise from Scripture:
I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon dry ground (Isaiah 44:3).
Their burden was for the folk of their parish, especially the young.
They had no idea of when God might answer their prayer,
or of how God might answer their prayer.

https://nwelford.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/clean-hands/
https://nwelford.wordpress.com/2018/03/08/a-distant-generation/

With my small corner of the world being currently consumed by all things new baby, I’ve
not had the time nor opportunity to delve further into the story of the Revival nor of the
Scottish minister, Duncan Campbell, who played a key instrumental part in the Revival.
Not until last evening when I finally managed to crack open the small blue book,
The Price and Power of Revival by Duncan Campbell, taking in a couple of pages before
closing my eyes from the weight of a month plus of pure exhaustion.

When I first read David’s initial post regarding this revival and of these two
elderly women who came before God entreating Him to fulfill a promise…
the promise of pouring water and floods upon a dry thirsty ground,
I was actually moved to tears.

Whereas their prayers were for their entire community, their focus was primarily
on the youth of their community.

These two humble elderly women believed God…without doubt…
and they believed in His promises…
so it was only natural that they went about imploring God to fulfill His promises.

The faith of a mustard seed…
a tiny smallness in which greatness is found.

Oh so simple and yet oh so profound.

They believed.
They prayed.
Their earnestness and honest heartfelt prayers, in turn, answered in miraculous fashion.

Duncan Campbell offers the following…

The Divine in the human:
In God’s creative plan, man holds a unique place,
distinct in this respect that he alone of God’s creation is capable of God-consciousness.
“This consciousness, or feeling,
is as much a verity as any other fact of human consciousness:

The notion of ‘God-consciousness’ is something that I think lies buried within the heart each
and every human being…be it dormant or not.

And it is the moving of the Spirit which awakens this sleeping giant.

I’ve recounted this little story before but it came flooding back when I
had read David’s post…

Years ago when I was a teenager, still in high school, I was running errands with
my “godmother” who was the wife of the dean of our Chruch. Ours was an Episcopal
Cathedral so the lead priest of an Episcopal Chruch is known as a dean.

They were a deeply spiritual couple who were actually actively involved in the current
spiritual revival taking place within the Catholic and Episcopal denominations known
as the Charismatic Movement.

This was during the mid 70’s…it was a time of cultural settling yet spiritual growth
following the contentious 60’s.

I don’t recall how our conversation got on the subject but my godmother commented
on the obvious curiosity behind my apparent draw to a deeper spirituality…
this given the fact that I was an angst-filled teenager whose family was not exactly
the most religious–
So how in the world I had stumbled upon my current path of a Spiritual journey,
all of which seemed more than a bit odd, was beyond her soul…

But she had a clue…

From first glance, I was not exactly one who others would imagine to be a deeply seeking person…
seeking deeply what Catherine Marshal called “Something More” —
which was the title of one of her numerous books and one that I just happened to be reading.

Knowing my history…that I had been adopted, my godmother turned to look me in the
face and proceeded to tell me that she believed someone who had known of me and of
my existence had prayed…
that someone had prayed for me for all these years…
as those prayers had been directing my path all these years…

And so yes, we pray earnestly because we have been told to pray without ceasing…
God has made us a promise and He will not turn a deaf ear to that promise…

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil,
to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

Totus Tuus / Entirely Yours

Totus Tuus…
The apostolic motto of Pope John Paul II
latin for
Entirely Yours


(a small creek and waterfall runs into a quiet lake cove / Julie Cook / 2017)

My cousin called me this afternoon, checking in on progress.
I ran down my list…with not much progress to report.
My monotone responses probably told him more than any unfinished laundry list could.
He told me to perk up.
Easier said then done when facing a seemingly unmovable wall.

Life right now is still overwhelming but in an entirely different
sort of fashion then from before.

For good or bad my stepmother’s estranged daughter has decided she wants to move
her mother to North Carolina, to be closer to her.
My stepmother’s son, who I have worked closely with over these past two years,
is reluctantly acquiescing to the option.
It’s complicated.
I think that was the title of a recent movie.
I can relate.

They move her next weekend.

They are packing up her little world.
What’s left and what remains of my dad’s world
will wait to be purged once my stepmother is moved.

It only seemed appropriate that she should move first before I “move” Dad.

When the dust settles with all of this,
our son and daughter-n-law will eventually move to the house…
With the house that I called home for 55 of my 57 years,
the place where I grew up, will soon be theirs.

Dad wanted that.

But I’m still jumping through hoops…
As I continue filing papers, waiting on lawyers, waiting to close then open
all sorts of accounts and continue paying exorbitant bills as none of that
goes away when one dies…
I am facing movings, re-movings, packing, repacking, good-byes, hellos…
shifting lives that are not mine but lives I am responsible for or a part of…

My stepmother claims no knowledge of who Dad was.
She told me again today she had no known remembrance of “that man”
“and isn’t that the craziest thing?”
“I can’t believe you all keep telling me I was married to him.”
On and on she goes remembering everything around him but not him.
She even told him this before he died, that she never remembers meeting him.
He stared at her as I had tried telling him this, but he didn’t want to hear it.

Yet she can point out a mirror hanging on the wall in my dad’s bedroom…
a mirror that she wants me now to take down so she can take it with her…
because that mirror has hung in every house she’s ever lived in.

Go figure.

So as I continue wrestling with life…mine and others…
I have found a new book…
or maybe I should say, the book found me.

The book is from the private diaries of Karol Wojtyla—Pope John Paul II

Any of you who know me, know that the late pope has always been very important
to me—ever since I watched him walk out on that balcony overlooking St Peter’s square
in 1978, with arms raised, greeting the world as the first Polish pope.

The title of the book is
In God’s Hands
and it is the spiritual diary spanning approximately 41 years of his priesthood.

The diaries were to be burned upon the Pope’s death but his close aide and confidant
Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz defied that wish as he understood the spiritual
significance of sharing these private thoughts and writings.

They were just recently translated into English and made available to an audience other
than Polish or Italian readers.

The Pope reminded me of something very important, right on the very first page…

“At a certain point, however, one needs to abandon human calculations and
somehow grasp the Godly dimensions of every difficult issue.”

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the One who is always in control no matter how
out of control we may feel….

Thank you Fr. Wojtyla….

Oh Heavenly Father, may I learn to be…
entirely yours….

Totus Tuus…
Entirely yours

This time of year….

Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world.

William Shakespeare

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Scottish saying

Halloween Pumpkins, Witch, Devil, and Black Cat
(vintage halloween card)

What is it about this time of year…
This time of year when we seem to crave the supernatural?
Is it in our nature to lean-in, ever so closely,
to those ancient tales of the “other side”?

Halloween,
what once was an evening relegated to the innocence of the imaginations of children,
has grown to become the second largest commercial “holiday” following Christmas.
No longer is All Hallow’s Eve a single night for young children to don costumes…
all the while as they canvass their neighborhoods, singing trick or treat,
as they amass a small mountain of candy…

Adults have gotten deep into the act.
With Halloween merry making and party going exceeding that of New Years Eve…
For it has now become a month long event….

Yet aside from candy and costumes, which innocently afford one the opportunity to play
dress up as some alter ego,
Halloween has become, more or less, a spiritual excuse.
An open invitation allowing ourselves to taste a bit of a spiritual realm…
But the trouble…
for that is what it becomes, a trouble…
lies in the choice of realms…

Bemused, you may wonder if there is a problem with this yearly interest,
of which borders on obsession,
in this revelry of the realm of the spirits…

And I fear that…yes, perhaps there is.

For you see, we are indeed spiritual beings…
with spirituality being hardwired into our DNA—
And history has proven that it is not necessarily always a need
for a monotheistic God that we seek,
but some sort of spirituality none the less.

Hollywood has long jumped on the bandwagon of our desire to examine spiritual realms,
while at the same time allowing us to exert that odd need to be frightened.
Spook and Horror movies, as well as those tales of witchcraft,
demon possession and specters, have long topped box offices
as we have an almost sick obsession with such.

It is as if cultures worldwide use Halloween as some sort of green light,
a go ahead in affording ourselves permission to dabble in the art of
fortune telling, tarot cards, palm readers, seances, Ouija boards,
paranormal hunting…the supernatural.
All coupled with jaunts to places that are supposedly haunted, creepy and even perhaps dangerous…
and lest we forget the trips to the myriads of haunted / horror houses
which open throughout the month.

Even Disney and Six Flags have each gotten into the act…

So we tell ourselves that that makes it all perfectly safe and harmless.

And yes Halloween, and the thought of spirits,
does indeed course through the blood of humankind….
With those roots traveling far back to Celtic Europe, the ancient Pagan Middle Eastern Kingdoms,
ancient tribes of the Americas, Asia and even Africa—
as every race of people has had that aspect of the supernatural and mystical tied
to their very beginnings.

So maybe we’ve just deem it as all innocent fun as we explore this need of the mystical.

Perhaps we merely convince ourselves that it’s simply wired
deep within the ancient core of our brains…
this odd desire to be scared and frightened…
all the while as we parle into a realm different from our own…

Maybe it’s just something we simply enjoy…

“So what,” we grouse, if it morphs into something else…
something other…
“I’m not scared, I don’t believe in that
hocus locus business…it’s just harmless fun…”

Yet there is just something troubling about it all…
Something actually quite unsettling…
Something actually very dangerous..

For in the naiveté of opening seemingly harmless doors,
we enter into an on-going battle…
an ancient battle for which we are simply not prepared to fight…

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world and against the
spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand.

Ephesians 6:12-13

Peril

Grüß Gott
(German for Go with God)

“So it is more useful to watch a man in times of peril,
and in adversity to discern what kind of man he is;
for then at last words of truth are drawn from the depths of his heart,
and the mask is torn off, reality remains.”

― Titus Lucretius Carus

DSC01409 (1)
(a small section of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2012)

Peril.

We don’t much care for peril or that which is perilous.

Yet our world, our society, our civilization is consumed by peril.
Yet we prefer not to think about this.

We prefer to be distracted.
Distracted by that which is…
bright and colorful,
soft and sweet,
happy and nice…
and for some even dull and dark…
anything to take our minds off of all that is now in peril.

Because who wants to sit around pondering peril and perilous…
when one can look at a shiny baubles, happy videos about kittens and puppies
or lose oneself to reality TV—nothing better than watching the lives of random folks
on television fall apart, or lose massive amounts of weight or dance their socks off….

Our politics are in peril
Our colleges are in peril
Our environment is in peril
Our National Security is in peril
Our athletes are in peril
Our foreign relations are in peril
Our race relations are in peril
Our children are in peril
Our veterans are in peril
The family is in peril
Our healthcare is in peril
Many of our fellow human-being’s state of health is in peril
Christianity is in peril
Judaism is in peril
State Governments are in peril
The US Postal Service stays in peril
The TSA seems to cause peril
Our airports are in peril
Our opinions are in peril
Our Country’s infrastructure is in peril
Our young people are in peril
Our safety is in peril
Much of our drinking water is in peril…
on and on and on and on…
ad infinitum…

You get the picture…

With so much peril all around us, it’s no wonder the hits and likes of
the puppy’s and kitten’s videos are skyrocketing.

I like to read but sadly time is not always my friend allowing me to do so.
I have a book that I purchased a while back but have made a point recently to grab it
when running out the door to rush dad to this or that procedure and doctor.

Church of Spies
The Pope’s secret war against Hitler
by Mark Rielbling

It’s a great book.

Spies, intrigue, narrow escapes, secrets, murders, tortures, codes, double agents
double crossing….
and it’s all true.

Real life high stakes espionage involving all sorts of folks…some folks in the most benign places you’d never expect to find double agents, accomplices, or spies.

I have been troubled over recent current events in this country where folks, mostly younger folks, have taken to labeling various political minded individuals as Hitler.
No one in this country comes anywhere close to possessing any sort of similarities to Adolf Hitler.
It is flippant but even more egregious to label anyone as Hitler.
It insults the 6 million individuals who were murdered in his concentration camps–not counting the countless numbers of soldiers and civilians killed during the course of the war…it cheapens and lessens each one of their tragedies.

But most folks today don’t really understand the total enormity of what Hitler’s ideology, atrocities to mankind, and reign of terror did not only to the people of the greater world almost 80 years ago, but what his deluded visions continue to do to us today…

For most of us today this is all merely fodder for the history books…
a bad blip on the radar of the past.

Maybe our generation who has been taxed, as has been the generations before us, with reminding current as well as future generations of the enormity of all that was in those dark days of World War II are not doing our job.
Maybe reminding others of past perils and of the similarities to today’s perils is simply too much, too challenging—- so therefore ignoring it has become the better option….

Opening the backdoors to incoming troubles.

Words uttered in 1940, the words of Helmuth von Moltke, a German lawyer involved in the resistance, ring as true today as they did all those many years ago…
“totalitarian war destroys spiritual values. One feels that everywhere. If it destroyed material values, the people, whose thinking is mostly limited by their perceptions, would know how and against what to defend themselves. As it is, the inner destruction has no correlative in the perceived world of things, of matter. So they fail to grasp the process and the possible means of countering or or renewing themselves.”

Our spiritual lives are currently in peril…shall our means of countering such be also lost, in turn allowing for a new sinisterness to fill the vacuum?
Extremism and radicalization loves to fill in where the spirituality of mankind has faded…

Those brave men and woman who worked silently and secretly to oppose Hitler and the Nazi regime, those who risked everything in order to stop, who even attempted to assassinate the ensuing madness, had to consider not only removing Hitler but what to do in the void following his removal.
That is, should they have succeeded in that removal.

As they were keenly aware of what could fill the vacuum should Hitler be disposed or eliminated.
For chaos often begets chaos….

Father Ludwig Kaas, an exiled German priest turned abettor for the resistance, noted that “the elimination of the furor Germanicus of Hitlerism will leave particularly among the young and restless generation a spiritual vacuum which will have somehow to be filled if another explosion is to be avoided”
As an alternative order-principle, the Vatican proposed European unification. An economic federation, Kass argue, would prevent anarchy, exacerbated patriotism, aggression and war

(Church of Spies p94)

The similarities of then and today are eerily mirrored.

Rather than Hitlerism, Nazism, the Nationalist Socialist Worker’s Party of then, today it is ISIS, the Islamic State, and an extremist Islamic Caliphate. Many of the young men and even woman who leave families in order to go join this barbaric rising regime are most often the restless of their generation.
They are those who are lost, bored, disenfranchised, angry, even oddly hopeful…

Many of the young terrorists who were responsible for the attacks in Paris and later those in Belgium had been no stranger to the local authorities as they had been versed in petty crime, local drug dealing, unemployed, foreign nationals..lost, living on the fringe of a country not their own.
There have been a few however who had been educated, integrated and accepted, yet felt a calling back to something buried deep within their core…

Has our world allowed this latest void, this vacuum, to expand?
Have we allowed the lessons of the past to pass us by…
Have we allowed the perils of the past to lessen over time?
Are today’s perils only those same past perils that have evolved over time into something
new yet equally perilous….

It took brave individuals willing to risk all they had to eliminate the perils of their time
to ensure the safety and wellbeing for us…the future generations they didn’t know.
But it was for those future generations that they did not know, but believed to be worth fighting for…

Have we forgotten that there are further generations worth fighting for?

Maybe we need to think about, taking a closer look at this perilous world of ours, and consider what we need to do in order to make things less perilous…..for not only ourselves but for our future hope…

Grüß Gott

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
2 Corinthians 1:10-11

Fishermen

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.
Henry David Thoreau

DSC01644
(a great blue heron enjoys breakfast / Julie Cook / 2015)

And He said to them:
“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.

Matthew 4:19

Butter to my bread

“You are the butter to my bread, and the breath to my life”
― Julia Child
DSCN2049
(Photograph: fresh artisan loaves of bread from Rose Cottage Bakery / Pine Mt. Georgia / Julie Cook / 2013

When I retired last year from my life at school, I fretted about where I would turn my newly freed attentions. My dad was the given, as was helping out my husband with his business, but my son really didn’t need me anymore as he is basically a fine grown man… So what to do as far my passions and my energies were concerned was what had me worried.

Teaching is a fast paced, non stop sort of stress producing vocation that runs as a day in and day out event. Rarely does or can a teacher “turn it off”….Multiply all of that by 31, which in turn meant I was basically a top wound as tight as one could get. I had to constantly be on the ready for whatever came down the pike– being ready to always hit the ground running each and every day for 31 years.

Such is the life of a high school teacher—add the other duties acquired over 31 years…coaching, working with after school needs based kids, Department Chair, various committee chairs, team leader, mentoring, trainings, more schooling, summer trainings—throw in being wife, mom, daughter…and you are one overwhelmed individual.

The question begged where was I going to pour some of that energy. Where was I going to dump so much of that “constantness” until I could learn to decompress somewhat. I had lived life as a Pavlov dog, as anyone who has ever worked in education will testify…bells and clocks controlled my life. And seeing that I’ve been in a school setting since I was 5 years old, we are looking at almost 50 years in school—–that is entirely too long!!

So suddenly the idea of time standing somewhat still was exciting but yet also very frightening. I knew all about the importance of “transition” as that is a current educational buzz word. I knew I needed a seamless transition—or at least the best transition I could manage. “I know!!”– I exclaimed while attempting to convince myself that I had a really good idea, “I’ll bake bread”–I’m talking fresh from scratch artisan breads.

I’ve written a post on this before so I won’t rehash all of it again but just know that I bought all of the latest books, the special pans, the proofing bowls, the drying cloths, the special flours…I was going to do this and do it 110% to the best of my ability like any good teacher worth her salts, oh and I bought the good special salts too….

The start of school this past August marked my first complete year of retirement and
I have made all of two loaves of bread and one batch of decadent cinnamon rolls. What is wrong with this picture you ask….

They were wonderfully good–heavenly in fact–loaves, or actually rounds, of delicious bread and yeasty delicious cinnamon buns…..but they were laborious and time consuming. There’s that whole making, rising, punching, kneading, rising, kneading..on and on…. Flour was everywhere and not being as confident in baking as I am in cooking, I always fretted the loaves would never rise and I would have worked like a dog for flat hard hockey pucks…..

Plus I probably would be weighing as much as a freight train right about now if I churned out loaves as I had intended. We all know that there is nothing better than hot bread with cow cream fresh real deal butter—-yummmmmmmm!! I’ve got a post about that too—as there is, to me, nothing better than the real deal butter…..

I visited a bakery today whose job is to churn out the wonderful breads that I thought I should be making. It is their job, their life, their passion, their mission to make really good bread. And they do so very successfully as they take their breads from the sleepy little west Georgia town of Pine Mountain up to the big city of Atlanta to sell their breads at the various city markets to ravenous crowds.

My job and passion, and I suppose my bread and butter, for 31 years was kids….other people’s kids. My job and passion now is a different type of bread and butter, it is simply the components that make my life truly that, my life. I’m good knowing that I finished the one job, the job of school. Now I’m tending to the job of family and home which is equally deserving and needing of my time—I’ve learned that I don’t have to nervously find something, anything to “fill the gap” —Dad’s doing a pretty good job of that all by himself….which is all good—

So whereas it was initially my misguided angst filled need to think I needed to make real bread, it is now my joyous epiphany, what Julia so eloquently waxes poetically, that my life is now here for my dad, my stepmom, my husband, my son, my godparents, my dear friends, and even for you my blogging friend ….and that is indeed the butter to my bread……….