All the cool cats…

I wish that I could be like the cool kids
‘Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in
I wish that I could be like the cool kids
Like the cool kids

Echosmith


(a painting as seen in our vet’s exam room / Julie Cook / 2019)

This is a painting in one of our vet’s exam rooms.
Percy and I are still visiting the vets now every other day as there has been one more last-ditch
effort to close up his wound and now he dons a cone daily.

When I asked about the painting/ collage,
they told me that their office manager had picked up most of the art and photographs gracing the walls at
a hobby store.

Meaning that the painting and photographs were not exactly unique but rather products of mass
merchandizing.

And so naturally when I saw this particular image the song The Cool Kids came straight to mind…
but in this case, the word ‘kids’ was replaced with the word ‘cats’…
as in this was obviously a “cool cat” as in a song lyric as
“I wish I could be like the cool cats”

As I read today’s quotes by both St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Augustine regarding prayer…
what prayer is…what makes prayer effective, etc…
I thought of this business of unique vs mass marketing;
I thought of mainstream and what our culture considers to be ‘cool’–as in
our current pop world, what it is to be in sync with the culture gods, and that which
is not “cool.”

Prayer, Christian prayer, is not cool.

Prayer, be it said privately and individually or en masse by a gathering in public,
has been under fire now for decades.

As the scrutiny, the irritation, the perceived wrong affected by those
who pray upon those who find it repugnant, is growing by leaps and bounds.

And we should note that this is only directed at Chrisitan prayer as no one is asking
Muslims not to publically call followers to pull out a prayer rug and bow towards Mecca throughout the day.

So what is it about Christian prayer that has the masses up in a dither?

What is it that is so offensive about those who offer the Christian prayer of intercession,
thanksgiving, healing, etc…while no one is finding the same offense when hearing the minnuetes
sounding the call to those who demonstratively stop work or schooling in order to bow
toward Mecca 5 times daily?

This is a most perplexing anomaly?

And thus I like what St Therese notes as “a surge of the heart”

May our hearts continue to surge…despite the ‘culturally cool kids’ who are
saying otherwise

For God hears our prayers…be they en masse or uniquely individual…

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven,
it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”

St. Therese of Lisieux

“Prayer is greatly aided by fasting and watching and every kind of bodily chastisement.
In this regard each of you must do what you can.
Thus, the weaker will not hold back the stronger, and the stronger will not press the weaker.
You owe your conscience to God.
But to no one else do you owe anything more except that you love one another.”

St. Augustine, p. 143
An Excerpt From
Augustine Day by Day

The Will, the Savior, the Salvation

The sacraments of the New Testament give salvation,
the sacraments of the Old Testament promise a savior.

St. Augustine
from The Bible and The Sacraments


(Tiger swallowtail / Julie Cook / 2019)

“Finally—-and this is perhaps the most difficult aspect of what concerns the practice of
conformity to the will of God—-we should desire virtue itself and the degrees of grace only
insofar as God wishes to give them, and not desire more.

Our whole ambition should be to attain the degree of perfection that has been appointed for us,
since it has not been given to everybody to reach the same height.
It is obvious that however well we may correspond with the graces given us,
we can never equal the humility, charity and other virtues of the Blessed Virgin.
And who can even presume to imagine that he can reach the same heights as the Apostles?
Who can equal St. John the Baptist whom Christ called the greatest of the children of men?
Or St. Joseph to whom God entrusted His Son?

In this we must as in all else submit to the will of God.
He must be able to say of us, My will is in them; it rules and governs everything.

So when we hear or read that God in a short time has brought some souls to a very high degree of
perfection and shown them signal favors, enlightened their understanding and imbued their hearts
with His love, we should repress any desire to be treated likewise so as not to fall short in pure love of conformity to His Will. We should even unite ourselves still more closely to His Will by saying,
‘I praise Thee, O Lord, and bless Thee for deigning to show Thyself with so great love and
familiarity to the souls Thou has chosen …'”

Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure,
p. 75-76
An Excerpt From
Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence

Grace, Glory and ….a white pigeon?!

“If you are suffering from a bad man’s injustice,
forgive him—lest there be two bad men.”

St. Augustine


(an odd visitor / Julie Cook / 2019)

Yesterday morning, I was out picking the burgeoning blueberry bushes.
I must confess that I’ve gotten a late start doing such due to both a lack of time
and desire…
So in my absence, the birds have pecked their fair share and the latest rains
have plumped them up a bit too much…
Yet I felt obliged to get to my picking responsibilities…

Suddenly I hear my husband hollering.
What he was hollering was alluding me, but I could tell it was with a heightened sense of alarm.

I drop my berry bowl and race up the bank toward the carport.
He’s not there.
I race into the house and he’s now on the back deck scanning the yard looking for me.

“Did you see it???!!” he exclaims—
“See what?” I reply with heightened concern.

“The white bird!!”

Huh???

“The white bird by the driveway??”

“No” I dead pan.

“How could you miss it???”

“Well I heard you hollering and I thought something was wrong…I wasn’t aware there was a bird…”

But sure enough, I walk out into the carport and I see a white bird bobbing about in the grass.

It was too big to be a white dove.

I walked closer.

The bird was nonplused and was obviously accustomed to people as it paid me no never mind.

Upon further investigation, we determined the dove was a pigeon.

Firstly, pigeons don’t hang out in our neck of the country woods and secondly,
a solid white pigeon is certainly an anomaly.
The bird was not an albino.

In his own little world and not bothered by us, the bird sauntered up the driveway
over to the other side of the yard where the grass is actually greener—
he just kept bobbing up and down making his way through the grass while I went back to berry picking.

My theory was that perhaps there had been a wedding over the weekend and
someone released white birds…one of which was not a dove but a pigeon who just
kept flying.

And so as we were gifted by this odd little visitor, a white bird that brings my thoughts
immediately to that of the Holy Spirit…and given the fact that Sunday was the marking of Pentecost,
I will leave us with these thought-provoking words by Blessed Cardinal Newman…

“My God, you know infinitely better than I how little I love you.
I would not love you at all except for your grace.
It is your grace that has opened the eyes of my mind and enabled them to see your glory.
It is your grace that has touched my heart and brought upon it the influence of
what is so wonderfully beautiful and fair . . .
O my God, whatever is nearer to me than you, things of this earth,
and things more naturally pleasing to me, will be sure to interrupt the sight of you,
unless your grace interferes.
Keep my eyes, my ears, my heart from any such miserable tyranny.
Break my bonds—-raise my heart.
Keep my whole being fixed on you.
Let me never lose sight of you; and, while I gaze on you,
let my love of you grow more and more every day.”

Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman, p. 44-5

the responsibilities we have

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.
A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship,
and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

St. Basil the Great


(gull, Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2019)

“Scattered about the entire earth, your mother the Church is tormented by the assaults of error.
She is also afflicted by the laziness and indifference of so many of the children she carries
around in her bosom as well as by the sight of so many of her members growing cold,
while she becomes less able to help her little ones.
Who then will give her the necessary help she cries for if not her children and other members to
whose number you belong?”
Saint Augustine, p. 90
An Excerpt From
Augustine Day by Day

The Creator

“To argue that God is “trying His best” to save all mankind,
but that the majority of men will not let Him save them,
is to insist that the will of the Creator is impotent,
and that the will of the creature is omnipotent.”

Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God


(Le Mont-Saint-Michel / Normandy, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Now, may our God be our hope.
He Who made all things is better than all things.
He Who made all beautiful things is more beautiful than all of them.
He Who made all mighty things is more mighty than all of them.
He Who made all great things is greater than all of them.
Learn to love the Creator in His creature, and the maker in what He has made.”

Saint Augustine, p. 136
An Excerpt From
Augustine Day by Day


(a view of the “chruch on the rock” at low tide / Julie Cook / 2018)

confessionals

“The punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder.”
St. Augustine of Hippo


(an Italian confessional in St Peter’s / The Vatican, Rome / Julie Cook / 2018)

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another,
that you may be healed.
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

James 5:16

Let me back up a tad…

Back at the end of June, my husband retired.

He had spent 50 years running a small family business.

It was not how he had wanted to spend his life.
It was not his dream.
But it was his lot in the world of his sense of duty.

So when he made the decision to throw in the towel after 50 long grueling years,
I knew I wanted to do something special.
Something memorable to mark such a monumental occasion.

But what would be special?

A trip perhaps?

And perhaps not just any trip.
Perhaps a bucket list sort of trip.

For my husband, however, his idea of leaving this country has simply been crossing over the
border into Canada.
Not that anything is wrong with wandering into Canada…
but Canada’s border wasn’t in the bucket.

The only time my husband had truly left the country, as in the continent,
was in the mid-1970’s.

He was in his sophomore year of college, playing college football, with his eye set on
dentistry or even coaching…
but at the behest of his father, or more like the demand of an abusive alcoholic father,
he stoically left where he was happiest and went to the Joseph Bulova School
in Queen’s New York where he eventually earned a degree in Horology.
That being the study of watches and watchmaking.
And with that followed studies with the GIA institute to become a gemologist and
diamond graduate.

Never his plan but rather what his father demanded what he was to do with his life as
he felt obliged to do so.

Following two years of surviving ad enduring life in New York,
this small town country boy was then sent to America Somoa where he managed the Bulova Watch Plant
for a year’s time.

It was following this year in absentia, a year of living on a 5-mile wide and long island that he
vowed, that if he ever made it home, he’d never leave the country again.

And that vow stuck…for 50 long years.
With, of course, Canada being excluded.

So now let us fast forward to a man 69 years of age and finally retiring…
I told him that if he would like…if he was willing…
I would make the bucket list trip happen.

And so he actually delightfully agreed.

The bucket list trip had always been to Normandy, France.

Or rather, it was to the beaches and towns of the D-Day invasion.
The places where regular men were to be unknowingly transformed into heroes…
heroes because these average young men willingly gave up their lives for all of
Western Civilization’s precious gift of democracy and freedom—
a gift so woefully tested by our current society.

I will soon write about this personal pilgrimage of sorts within the coming days…
but before I do so, I want to address my concern over a current global obsession.

An obsession that only those living under rocks must be missing.

If you’ve ever found yourself traveling outside of the US and after a long
day or either business or touring, wanting to simply fall onto a bed while flipping on
a television hoping to catch a familiar sound of someone speaking your own language,
chances are your choice has been limited to one of two channels…
CNN International or the BBC International.

Both of which have a heavy dose of progressive liberalism in their slant
on global happenings.

Such was our lot during this recent Supreme Court nomination fiasco.

We were subjected to the willy-nilly, the sky is falling Henny Penny sense of
hysteria coming from the news anchors of CNN International.
I actually caught each and every nuanced slur and sensationalistic little dig.

So I will giddily confess…I was greatly happy to be out of the country during all of the
obsession over the Kavanaugh hearings…
or more aptly put…the grilling, the scrutinizing and the personal persecution
of a seemingly decent man, husband, father and professional.

I will not belabor this latest idiocy of ours as I am sick of it all.
Sick of the latest low we, as a Nation, have sunk to.

That we have actually allowed ourselves to conduct governmental dealings as a sleazy
tabloid trash reality show would do…of which I find disgusting…
disgusted over our irreprehensible assinine behavior…is beyond my soul.

Scintillating and titillating are two words I would never have ever considered using when thinking
about, let alone describing, a hearing process working towards the nomination of a Supreme
Court Justice…
Rather we should consider words steeped deeply in the tedious law-minded legal policies
and ponderings of a judicial system.

If we are now wanting to use the haphazard adolescent behavior from our teenaged years
as benchmark measures for our adult appointments and advancements then I fear every last
human being will be in store for a rude awakening if not a ton of troubles.
For what young person among us hasn’t done something dumb, shameful, wrong, illegal
and or simply arrogantly stupid?

For is that now how we, in part, learn?
Learning from youthful idiotic mistakes and poor choices as we make our way
to adulthood?

We just pray, as do the adults in our lives, that such mistakes and poor youthful judgment calls
are not overly detrimental, utterly devastating or sadistically dubious…
and yet sadly, in many cases, they are…

Consider the adolescent bravado of living fast, furious and large while mixing life and death consequences…
James Dean comes to mind.

And no, we are not talking about pathological psychosis that gives way to bizarre heinous actions.
Here we are talking about poor judgemental actions by, more often than not,
self-centered egotistical youth not the actions of psychopaths.

And so when recently visiting St Peter’s in Rome while passing by a confessional booth…
I was struck immediately by our human sinful nature.
Something that hangs over us like a heavy dusty suffocating curtain.

I grew up in a liturgical church…a church with the prayers of confession and confessions
to a priest…all being the norm.
I for one often found myself on that confessing end, seeking both prayerful wisdom and direction
from those more knowledgeable and wizened than myself as I made my way through the muddy waters of
growing up balancing on the wire between my newly professed faith while finding my way as a willful
teenager.

Absolution.

Absolution which we graciously offer to those who seek forgiveness…
the ultimate absolution granted to each of us from the one who hung on a cross.

“Go and sin no more” said the Jewish rabbi to the adulteress woman.

The confessional is a sacred form of sharing from the penitent to the priest.
It is a protected sharing…protected even in a court of law.
For it is a sharing between penitent, priest and God.
And yet, I somehow sense that our rabid politicians and progressive liberal culture,
coupled with the hyper-rabid news media, would find the confessional null and void
for the sinners among us…as they seem to find themselves above reproach…

Yet who among us is worthy of casting that stone?

My concern is not with what took place 35 years ago by a supposed 16-year-old kid
and those who can and cannot recall the who, what and wheres of cloudy recollections…
but rather with the dubious ploys used by those who simply hate a president and everything
attached to his tenure.

Such that they seek a saint amongst the sinners…

May God have mercy on us all…

If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

hope in the face of death and evil

As a result of Christ’s salvific work, man exists on earth with the hope of
eternal life and holiness.
And even though the victory over sin and death achieved by Christ in His cross
and resurrection does not abolish temporal suffering from human life,
nor free from suffering the whole historical dimension of human existence,
it nevertheless throws a new light upon this dimension and upon every suffering;
the light of salvation.
Pope John Paul II (Salvifici Doloris)


(the grave of an infant, Hazel Ivaleen Garland born and died Dec 27, 1914, Cades Cove Methodist Chruch)

Today, I had tagged along with my husband as he went down to check on his deer property about
an hour south of home.
And you must note that this is deer property and not dear property…
but perhaps the deer are dear to him…

As I was perched on the back of a 30-year-old Honda four-wheeler, sitting on the “luggage bars”
hanging on for dear life, I felt each rock and downed limb while riding along
the rutted and washed out pig trails…

Bouncing up and down while holding on with one hand while swatting down the spider webs
with the other, webs we kept managing to run smack dab in to…webs strung across the paths
each filled with a giant brown spider sitting in the center hoping for passing insects and
not swatting humans…all the while dodging the saw-briars and
bramble vines readily tearing into any exposed skin…my mind started to wander.

My husband has had this land throughout most of our 35-year marriage…
So to say that I’m pretty familiar with its nuances…its creeks, streams,
woods, and fields would be an understatement.

I thoroughly enjoy traversing such areas…be they close to home or much further away.

Today I thought back to when I rode my aunt on these pig trails in my husband’s Polaris…
think glorified golf cart for hunters but with an engine.

Living in south Florida as she did, being afforded the adventure of riding the trails
on some woodsy and quite hilly property was a real treat.
She’d hold on, like a kid, as we scooted up and down in the middle of nowhere,
enjoying every minute.

I felt warm tears forming while I was still holding on for dear life thinking back over
the adventure I’d shared with her…here.

Obviously, I miss my aunt.
The only member I had left to mother’s branch of my life’s tree.

As there is just so much of what I mindlessly do day to day that my aunt had most often
been along doing with me…going through my mindless motions most often right by my side.

So when suddenly that person who just seemed to always be there is no longer there, well
every little reminder is like those briars…just ready to prick the flesh of the heart.

These thoughts circled through my head as I had just earlier seen a breaking news story
that authorities in Iowa believed they found the body of the young college girl Molly Tibbets
who has been missing now for a month.

And immediately following that breaking news came the news of a more local story
about a missing young college grad who’d gone kayaking on a family camping trip last week
at West Point Lake and whose body was recovered today from what authorities are now saying
was a suicide.

Families, friends, and entire communities now must deal with the haunting questions…
the what ifs, the would haves, should haves, could haves all of the unknown.

And so it seems that today I am reminded, be it for good or bad, of death and evil…
as they just so often seem to walk hand in hand.

Death, loss and the looming presence of evil, that is so often connected to such,
are often the game breakers of people’s faith.

Even the great Christian apologist C.S. Lewis wrestled with the same quandary and seeming
madness over the death of his wife as he riled at God for the loss while famously
lamenting…
“Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms…
But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain,
and what do you find?
A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside.”

Yet over time, Lewis came to realize that God’s love remains a constant whereas life
is what remains in a constant state of flux.

On our recent trip to the mountains and that of Cades Cove, I mentioned that we visited
the old Methodist Chruch that has existed in the cove since the early 1800’s.
The old cemetery still stands and I’ve learned that living relatives of those original
founding families may still be buried in the Chruch’s cemetery if they so wish.

Surveying the tiny little cemetery, whose markers date back to the turn of the century,
I was struck by the smallest of markers…markers I know that denote the graves of children.

For one family alone there were three little headstones all lined up in a row,
each with a little carved lamb sitting on top.


(two of the Sparks family’s infant markers)

This particular collective family lost three infants over an 18 year period.
Many of the infant’s dates denote the birth and death as being the same day.

Life was difficult, precarious and often short back in this lonesome and far removed cove.

I know the pain of loss…but not the same pain and loss of those whose loss has come from
violence and that of pure evil.
Yet what I do know is that all death, and that of the ensuing losses, are all associated
with evil…
because death, the permanent loss of life, is simply the absence of …
with evil being the void.

Robert Velarde from Focus on the Family puts it this way:

Solving the seeming contradiction between a loving God and the reality of evil
is usually referred to as a theodicy.
A theodicy attempts to solve the apparent tensions in what is often termed the problem of evil.
But the problem of evil is really a series of problems.
Like many large problems, sometimes it is helpful to break them down into their components.
Evil, you see, actually extends not only to the moral world, but also to the natural world.
When human beings do bad things to one another, this is moral evil.
But so-called natural disasters are often considered evil as well because of all the
suffering they cause.
Earthquakes, tidal waves, floods, and so forth,
are all examples of what might be termed natural evil.

One helpful approach to solving the problem of evil has to do with defining evil.
Christian thinker Augustine defined evil not as a thing in and of itself,
but as a parasite on good.
Something that is lacking is not a thing in itself.
For instance, if you have a hole in your jacket,
the hole is not something, but rather is something that is lacking.
Similarly, Augustine considered evil something that is missing.
Indeed, it requires good to exist because it is a parasite.
In this sense, Augustine defined evil as a privation–
a lack of something–rather than a thing or substance.

This solves some important criticisms.
If evil is not an actual thing,
then God cannot be the author of evil.
God is the author of good, but we make moral choices that result in evil.

At some point in all of our lives,
we will be faced with walking through the lonely dark valley of death.
We will hurt and we will raise an angry fist to our unseen God…
some of us will walk away in bitterness and anger while some of us will hold onto the
One who persists in offering saving Grace…despite the pain, the sorrow, the tragedy
of loss, the violence, the accidents, and eventually death…

With the Fall of man…the consequence was not simply pain during childbirth or slithering
snakes or nakedness, nor knowledge…it was and is death.
And in death resides a void of separation…that void is the true consequence.

And in this void of separation precipitated by death, there resides evil…
because a void must be filled…and thus this void was filled by evil.

There was never supposed to be death because death was never God’s intent…
but by offering freewill to the created, the result, as He knew, was inevitable.
And therefore evil filled the void…
the void, created by isolation and separation,
separated the created from the Creator by means of a void.

Enter the necessity of a Savior to bridge the void.

Death and evil will remain on this earth as they fill the void created by a Fall…
yet through God’s Grace found in the sacrifice of Christ…we know death and evil
are not only conquered but actually vanquished…for all eternity.

In her book The Catholic Table–
Finding Joy Where Food and faith Meet
Emily Stimpson Champman sums it up best:

“God revealed to the Israelites why, for all his goodness and the goodness of creation,
things didn’t always seem good. Sickness, death, war, destruction–they didn’t belong to the
original plan. God created man to live in harmony with both him and creation.
But, because God wanted man to love him freely, he gave man free will, the capacity to choose
between God and self. Man chose self, and in doing so, he chose death”

And so we live earthly with our selves and our consequence while knowing there is,
in the end, a beautiful solution.

Special Grace (or a better term Salvific Grace) is the super grace by which God redeems,
sanctifies, and glorifies his people. Unlike ordinary grace, which is universally given,
special salvific grace is bestowed only on those whom God elects to eternal life through
faith in Jesus Christ. (Act 13:48)

excerpt from God’s Ordinary and Salvific Graces