Show us the way oh Lord. . .

“Others have seen what is and asked why.
I have seen what could be and asked why not. ”

― Pablo Picasso

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(a statue of Christ on the Charles Bridge , Prague, The Czech Republic / Julie Cook / 2012)

What is it that sets us apart form the other creatures on this planet our ours?
Other than that opposable thumb business?

What is it that makes us greater, wiser, better. . .?

Is it perhaps our ability to be compassionate and kind?
Perhaps to reason and analyze?
Or is it is our capacity to be creative. . .that ability to dream, to imagine, to think and therefore to compose, to construct, to paint, to sing, to sculpt, to dance and to build. . .

The ability to even take that which has been ruined and destroyed, even by our own hands, and to remake, rekindle and renew. . .?

I had not intended to have such a serious minded post again this week but it appears that forces beyond my control thought better of my initial decision. . .

Today’s news is laced, once again with the heinous beheading by ISIS of another innocent bystander–another victim to their ravenous thirst for innocent blood. This time it was an 82 year old Archeologist taxed with preserving and saving the ruins of Palmyra.
It seems they held this gentleman for the past month, torturing him in an attempt to discover where the vast treasures of this ancient, and to some holy, site were hidden. He never shared that information with his captors, who knows if he even was aware of hidden treasure, so it was another case of “off with their heads”. . .

Here you may find a link to the full story as found on the BBC . . .
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33984006

In Charles Kaiser’s book “The Cost of Courage” which I shared in yesterday’s post, Mr. Kaiser retells the story of the Vichy Parisian Mayor, Pierre-Charles Taittinger who, following the invasion of Normandy which was the telling realization for the Nazis that their time of Occupation in Paris, as well as all of France, was drawing dangerously to its finale, approached the Nazi’s high commander, General Choltitz, with his final plea for the Germans to spare the city.

It was well known and documented that if Hitler had to relinquish the City of Lights back into the hands of the Allies, then they would not receive a city at all but rather one that had been razed and burnt to the ground. Every bridge crossing the Seine, as well as every monument from the Eiffel Tower to Napoleon’s Tomb had been wired with explosives. The fleeing German troops were to detonate and burn everything in their wake as they left the city.

Monsieur Taittinger implored the General one last time:
“Often it is given to a general to destroy, rarely to preserve,” Taittinger begins.
“Imagine that one day it may be given to you to stand on this balcony as a tourist, to look once more on these monuments to our joys, our sufferings, and to be able to say, “One day I could have destroyed all this, and I preserved it as a gift for humanity.’ General, is not that worth all a conqueror’s glory?”
The General replied, “You are a good advocate for Pairs. You have done your duty well. And likewise I, as a German general, must do mine.”

History tells us that the General was wise enough to know that by now Hitler was indeed a madman and that the war, with the Soviets now advancing from the east, was all but over and that it would not serve the furture of Germany, whatever that further may now hold, to destroy what the French held so dear. There is more to the story, a series of interventions and seemingly miraculous moments which spurred the Allied forces to march upon the city in the nick of time, but I suggest that you read that story on your own as it makes for fascinating reading.

When the church bells rang out echoing across the city, with the deep baritone bells of Notre Dame leading the way, sounding the joyful news of the liberation of Paris, the General was heard to say, “that today I have heard the bells of the death knell of my own funeral. . .” He had sent the troops out from the city with having detonated only the bombs of one of the train stations.

What is it about our splendors and our glories, those monuments we construct, build, make and craft from generation to generation. . . those tombs and treasures we hold so dear and so ever important? So much so that we feel the urgency and need of being tasked with their care, their maintenance, their upkeep and their eventual preservation?
Is it because we see that these manmade wonders are some of the tangible evidence of the better part of our nature? That despite our ability to destroy, to kill and to promote war. . .deep down we know that we strive for the good, the beautiful and the enduring?

These wonders of ours link us to our past civilizations. These monuments of glory, grandeur and beauty of both joy and sorrow allow us to see from where we have come, and in turn we are afforded the opportunity to show future generations the part of us which is better, kinder, gentler, more humane —that side which chose to give rather than to take?

So on this day, when another has fallen victim to a dark and evil menace spreading outward from the Middle East, I am left with the simple prayer, “Oh Lord, show us the way. . .”

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(Duomo di Milano / Milan, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(The Bascillica di San Antonio / Padova, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore / Firenze, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(Basilica Papale di San Francesco / Assisi, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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( Basilica Papale di San Pietro / The Vatican / Roma, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(stain glass windows in The Basilica of the Holy Blood / Bruges, Belgium / Julie Cook / 2011)

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(Notre Dame / Paris France / Julie Cook / 2011)

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(détail, Notre Dame / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

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(Eiffel Tower / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

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(the cross that sits atop the Eagles Nest or the Berghof overlooking Berchtesgaden, Bavaria which was once Hitler’s private mountain retreat / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(St Stephens Cathedral/ Vienna, Austria / Julie Cook / 2013)

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St Vitus Cathedral / Prague, The Czech Republic / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(Rose window, St Vitus Cathedral / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(A section of the Berlin Wall / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(a section of the Berlin wall / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(The Brandenburg Gate / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(The interior of the new German Chancellory, the Bundestag / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

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Exterior of the Bundestag / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

Hyper focused

Most people are good at too many things. And when you say someone is focused, more often than not what you actually mean is they’re very narrow.
Chuck Close

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(Carriage horses waiting outside of St Stephens Cathedral / Vienna, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

This is me.
“Which one” you ask?
The one on the right
“Why the one on the right?”
Because you can see more of him.
“Him?! I thought you said it was you, as in you’re a girl.”
Details. . .

Yes I am very much like a horse wearing blinders,especially these latest of days.
Meaning, I am looking dead ahead–
No distractions–
Hunkered down with all attention on one thing and one thing only.

I’ve always been this way.
One big issue at a time.
“But wait” you say.
“What about all that multitasking, juggling, maintaining many irons in the proverbial fire??”
Well, yes–multitasking yes–multi focus, not so much.

This is me, for the past several months and most certainly throughout this week.
And I rather fancy the little green ear hats.

Yet it behooves me to be mindful of what must be the true focus of my attention, especially during times of great stress— times, when I am greatly consumed, when my attentions are pulled in every which way.
As in now.
The focus must turn away from me and my world. . .

It is easy to become overwhelmed, distracted to the point of illness, a short temperament–threatening to reign negative where positive is most wanted and needed. . .especially when we are faced with big events, big challenges—consuming events and overwhelming challenges.

Therefore. . .
Let us fix (focus) our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrew 12:2

To focus on what is truly important–not the minutia of life, but rather on the Author and Perfecter of our Faith!
The Redeemer of all Life.
To stop.
To take stock and re-group.
To breathe.
To look.
To focus.
To know. . .
This is the task.
This is the true goal.
This is the life line.
This is my true need!
Amen to that!!

yet I still fancy the little green ear hats. . .
Off to the airport for pick up–very much like this little horse 🙂

Gratitude

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

― Thomas Merton
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Isn’t this a wonderful photograph? A beautiful flower shop in Vienna, Austria, in the shadows of Saint Stephansdom Cathedral–there in what is known as St Stephansplatz—the plaza area surrounding the ancient massive gothic marvel. It is a beautiful image in order to introduce today’s post on gratitude.

I took the photograph at the flower shop this same time last year during a most special trip that was the culmination of gratitude…it was based in having spent a life-time of doing a job that meant so much but had run its course. To celebrate an ending there was the trip, with dear companions sharing in the joy, of a new journey.

But before I ramble on too much longer, there is however, an issue I wish to address on a slightly more personal concept of gratitude as a bit of a side note— as I wish to thank Prasad over on hisinception.wordpress.com blog for nominating me for the Reader’s Appreciation award.
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And as one act of gratitude in turn should give way to another, I would like to pass this award on to Rita over on thebravetraveler.com— As I am a person who truly enjoys travel and all that entails, I have greatly enjoyed reading Rita’s blog of the bravetraverler. Rita’s stories are real life and practical. There is advice and wisdom for us all whether it’s a weekend adventure to the mountains or a trip of a life time across a vast ocean–there is comfort knowing you are not alone in your concern, angst, fear, dread, anticipation, joy, exhilaration and sheer sense of adventure.

Rita helps to make this bigger than life world a little friendlier and more manageable. Kudos to both Prasad and Rita for sharing themselves and their passions which in turn help to make us all a little wiser and a little happier. Gratitude.

I’m not good with these sorts of things as I certainly feel undeserving and rather eschew the attention. I did add an additional page on the About Me page to display those awards that have been bestowed upon this humble blog by some rather amazing bloggers, as I am truly appreciative. I am most grateful, I just tend to take the more quiet route regarding such….but there is indeed gratitude.

Now let me return to the true issue of today’s post—that being the concept of gratitude (not necessarily mine)—which is the ability of being thankful, a quality or feeling of thankfulness. The 13th century German theologian Meister Eckhart tells us that if the only prayer we were to ever say was “thank you”– then that would be enough.

It’s one of the first things we attempt to teach our children—that being the art of saying please and thank you. Here in the South one was always chided by ones’ grandmother if a thank-you note was not written and delivered within the said appropriate window of respectable time….I never really knew what that time frame really was but that I was to start writing immediately upon receiving said kindness, never allowing the dust to even settle.

Every young southern girl worth her salts had a set of note cards— along with a mother who would constantly inquire if the notes of thanks were written by the unknown magic time frame… be it for ones’ christmas gifts or the invitation to dinner by the parents of the boyfriend….If there was a gift or a kindness, there was a note of thanks expected to be written. Which does give way to an entirely different discussion on decorum but we will save that for another day Scarlet.

In the Christian faith there are a handful of types of prayer that are indicative to our faith. Prayers of supplication, adoration, intercession, petitions and of course, thanksgiving. As human beings, we tend to pray those intercession prayers fast and furious. The “please oh please” prayers…the “help, please help, I need you God” type of prayers, the “I desperately need you” prayers. Those are the types of prayer that usually top our list and sneak into our prayer time at the front of the line.

It is, however, the prayers of praise and thanksgiving that are truly more important than probably any other prayer we utter. God knows our needs before we even know our needs but the questions begs…does He know our gratitude? The answer being that since He is an omnipotent God, than yes, He knows all…. but hearing his children offering adoration and thankfulness—that is His music.

Don’t we, as parents, love and even yearn to hear our children offer us genuine thanks? Of course we shrug it all off as if we were simply doing our duty, but inwardly we glow as we now have confirmation that they, our children, really do care about the sacrifices and struggles we make or have taken in order to make certain that they, our children, are happy, ok, and more comfortable than ever we were ourselves. Ode to parenthood and of being a parent—a thankless job that does have it’s glowing moments.

So is God not our Father? He is not a parent who longs as well for the confirmation from the children He loves and adores? Any parent, worth being a parent, does what they do because they are a parent and it is the right thing to do by their children–regardless of thanks or praise. But when there is that small recognition, that little hug, that little uttered “thanks”, hearts then soar and with that magical warm feeling as “job well done” resonates deep within.

So on this new day to this new week, make the effort to express your gratitude….be it for a small kind gesture offered by a stranger, the small acts of subtle love given by a parent or child which are offered your way… or merely for the simple gift of just getting up and breathing freely each and every morning….there is gratitude to offer and express—

No matter how grim life may be, there is always a kindness which is offered–which in turn means there is always something in which to offer thanksgiving. Be grateful for this new day and for all of its possibilities.

Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble…

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When visiting Vienna this past Fall, I wandered into a small shop sitting in the shadow of the great Stephansdom or St. Stephens Cathedral. St Stephens is a romanesque gothic wonder that stands on the same site in which it was first consecrated in 1147.

The shop’s name is Cecconi (http://www.cecconi.at/) and it’s a shop specializing in arts and crafts, particularly woodcarvings. There is a huge selection of German hand painted metal ornaments. Wood carvings of animals, nativity pieces, decorative ornaments as well as religious pieces. I actually visited the store twice. The Christmas ornaments were all so pretty, meticulously hand painted and beautifully displayed. Wonderful small treasures to take back home as a reminder of Wien (Vienna).

It was however a beautiful image of the crucified Christ which caught my eye as it hung on the wall behind the counter. I had never quite seen this type of particular “take” on the crucifixion. There was no cross, just a hanging, distorted torso, twisted in agony and at the exact moment of death–delicately carved from a piece of wood. It was captivating as well as moving.

I asked how much, and knew I must purchase it. The young man whose family owns the shop told me that it is actually a copy of a larger “Christos” on display in the Alps. He told me that when I get home, I need to find the “perfect” piece of wood on which to display it–perhaps a piece of drift wood. He wrapped the carving in a mountain of tissue paper and I proceeded to carry it as if it was a baby for the remainder of our journey abroad.

Once home, I scoured the woods and area around my house looking for a piece of wood. I opted to “distress” a piece of oak, as I don’t live near a place where I could find any drift wood. I added some broken nails for the carving to hang on and hung it in my dinning/ kitchen area so that those entering my home would immediately see it up on the wall. It is one of those things that holds your attention and doesn’t quite let go.

As today is Good Friday I am reminded of what this small wooden display actually represents. It is a day that you and I all stand before the Cross–There is a vast heaviness as we stand today contemplating this very Cross.

I want to share with you not only my small treasure from Vienna, not only a piece of beautiful artisanship, not only a unique display, but the very reason as to what brings us all to this particular day— the Agony and Death of One which gave, and continues to give, way to Hope and Salvation for All.

There is a haunting old “negro spiritual” that we would sing in my church when I was younger during the Good Friday service:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

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