life’s separation

“Life can only be understood backwards;
but it must be lived forwards.”

Søren Kierkegaard

“The accidents of life separate us from our dearest friends,
but let us not despair.
God is like a looking glass in which souls see each other.
The more we are united to Him by love,
the nearer we are to those who belong to Him.”

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

the written word

“What is more frightening a totalitarian regime’s destruction of
knowledge or its hankering for it?”

Anders Rydell


(sunset over the Gulf, Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

I’ve come across a most intriguing story.
It is a tale of war, ideologies, plundering, destroying, recovering…
with an eventual attempt to reunite as it were.
And very much a true story.

It is a tale as told in Andres Rydell’s book The Book Thieves
The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries And the Race to Return A literary Inheritance

Rydell offers in the forward the idea that “In our time, the book has remained
a symbolic value that is almost spiritual.
Discarding books is still considered sacrilegious.
The burning of books is one of the strongest symbolic actions there is,
correlating with cultural destruction.
While mainly identified with the Nazi book pyres of 1933,
the symbolic destruction of literature is as old as the book itself.

The strong relationship between humans and books relates to the role of the written word in the dissemination of knowledge, feeling, and experience over
thousands of years.
Gradually the written word replaced the oral tradition. We could preserve more
and look further back in time.
We could satisfy our never quite satisfied hunger for more.
…Our simultaneously emotional and spiritual relationship to the book is
about how the book “speaks to us.”
It is a medium connection us to other people both living and dead.

A year before my godfather died, he had me come over in order to help him sort through
his belongings.
He and his wife were soon to move to a much smaller place as the issue of
each ones health, both physical and cognitive, was rapidly failing,
and he was under the clock to purge a lifetime of work and living.

To me this aging man was more than a symbolic godfather.
He had been a priest for over 50 years so he was actually more spiritual father than anything else.

While I was sitting sprawled out on the floor of his study, sorting through files,
DVDs and a mountain of papers, he offered me any of the books that I could carry
from his myriad of covered shelves.

Here was once a widely renowned man in his profession.
A long sought after lecturer and author.
His collection of books was both wide and diverse.
Yet it was to a small copy of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol that drew my eye.
“Jules, if you want it, take it” he nonchalantly told me.
I opened the book and inside the cover was written in fine fountain pen lettering
the follwing inscription:
“To David B. Collins
From Aunt Emma
Dec 25th 1930”

“But,” I stammered…. only for him to reassure me, “take it.”

The book is an illustrated version of the Dickens classic with this particular
edition being published in 1927.
And it had obviously been a Christmas gift to a nephew of 8 from a loving aunt.

Once home, I thumbed through the book.
There was a card, what I first thought was a yellowed notecard, placed between pages
222 and 223, the point in the story when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come had taken Scrooge to the churchyard in order to see his own grave marker.

The card was however an altar card from the chapel of The University of the South,
Sewanee, TN—the school that Dean Collins had attended for seminary as well as where he
served as rector.

I imagine the card marked material once used in a sermon.

I share this little story with you because it is just one small fragmented
tale illustrating the importance of not just a story in a book but rather of the book itself… and of the line of people the little book has traversed—
It is really the story a continuum…the continuum from once a loving aunt to
her 8 year old little nephew…and later from aging old man to his equally aging
spiritual God daughter….

But the giving will not have stopped with me…that’s how it is with books.
It’s merely resting for a while before, at some point in the future,
it travels once again,
For we come to understand that books often have a life of their own…

And so what the world witnessed with the Nazis and their fervor to rid themselves
of a certain group of people, with their ultimate hope being to actually rid
the entire world of these people—it was not enough to merely take their belongings, especially their books, and to destroy them or hide them away.

Nor was it enough that they take these very people and burn them, hiding them away…
But the key rather for the Nazis was to take the very essence of these
‘loathsome people’—with that essence being these people’s actual written word.

And if the Nazis could erase their words, then these people would in turn,
cease to exist— or better yet in the minds of the Nazis, cease to have ever
existed at all…..as in a total wiping clean of the slate of the very existence.

Because as Rydell points out “whoever owns the word has the power to not only
interpret it, but also to write history.”

Rydell’s story is rich in history as he gives an in-depth look into how Germany, a highly educated and culturally rich people, came to find themselves being lead blindly by
a madman.

Rydell’s story is a convoluted tale of madness, death, destruction leading to one of
hope and reuniting…linking a past with a future.

For there is a great lesson in his story for us today–especially now.
A lesson it would behoove our society to heed.

And a lesson I will be sharing in the next day or so….

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

After the fact

“…[W]hen death comes to a man, the mortal part of him dies,
but the immortal part retires at the approach of death and escapes unharmed and indestructible…
[I]t is as certain as anything can be…
that soul is immortal and imperishable, and that our souls will
really exist in the next world.”

Socrates


(sunset at Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

It is now after the fact…
The storm has come and gone…
the winds are minimal at best…and the seas are calm….
And it appears that our friend Socrates is on to something….

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;
no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father,
who has given them to me, is greater than all;
no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

John 10:28-30

This time of year

When the year dies in preparation for the birth
Of other seasons, not the same, on the same earth,
Then saving and calamity go together make
The Advent gospel, telling how the heart will break.
Therefore it was in Advent that the Quest began…

C.S. Lewis, Launcelot

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(a December’s fading light / Carrollton, GA / Julie Cook / 2015)

And just like that the passing of a season has quickly come and gone…
as the taking stock of another year has all too soon begun.
With the sun resting lower against a sagging horizon, as evening shadows grow ever long…
we pull our jackets and sweaters a bit tighter as we hurry our way along.

With the time for merriment quickly filling the air, a waning season holds fast and tight.
We hurriedly now race from here to there seeking good cheer on a cold winter’s night.
With gifts being bought and packages to send…expectation quickly fills air.
Our hearts grow a bit bigger as our eyes grow wider under the whisper of each tiny prayer.

Endings bring about beginnings as the the second candle is silently lit.
While those captives of ages past now recite the holy writ.
With festivities quickly underway and hearts now merry and bright,
our hopes and fears have met again during the course a single winter’s night.

With the cards having all been written and the invitations quickly sent,
well wishes and good tidings are the sentiments now kindly meant.
The carolers have gathered together offering their glad wishes to those who give ear,
As their songs once again offer up hope and joy to a suffering world this mystical time of year.

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

At peace

“There is no way in which a man can earn a star or deserve a sunset.”
― G.K. Chesterton

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(the sun slips to the horizon / Henderson State Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

We deserve not, nor have we earned the gift of
the glorious,
the beautiful,
the majestic
the splendid
or
even the sublime. . .
Yet we are privy each dawn and dusk to utter wonderment.

A weary sun sinks low, resting heavy on the melting horizon. . .
As a calming hush is pulled gently across the shoulders of the sleepy landscape. . .

Do you have any regrets?

Are you sorry, feeling poorly or badly for how events may have unfolded throughout your day?

Do you stare forlornly out toward the darkening curtain that is slowly
being drawn across the closing day’s stage?

Could things have been better, different, more hopeful, more positive?

Are you now feeling burdened, defeated, regretful, resentful. . .?

Or. . .

Are you at peace. . .
resolved,
resolute
and calmly determined. . .
Finding yourself in a place of no regrets, no remorse, nor restless spirit. . .
Exhaling a blissful release of self as you feel your body giving way to the beautiful display that is offered to you in the evening’s gracious sky by the only One who is truly in control and has offered you a piece of Himself. . .

They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.
Psalm 65:8

May there be peace in your soul

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”

Rumi

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(setting sun through the sea oats / Henderson State Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7

A disclaimer of Wonderment

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”

― William Blake

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(beauty found in the wild grasses of a meadow / Julie Cook / 2015)

The beauty and wonder of nature. . .
They stand before us in majesty and splendor
just as they float to us upon a sweet whisper of wind.

Striking and stirring
Humbling and demure.

Perhaps you’ve seen the commercial, a car commercial I think. . .
A dad takes his young son, who is perhaps eight or so, to see the massive
great Sequoias of the Redwood Forest.
The child stands at the foot of one of the oldest and tallest trees on the planet with
little to no sense of acknowledgement other than a passing “thought they’d be bigger”
The dad simply looks at his son with a slight bemused smile of “Really??”

Next scene—-the dad stands with his son on the rim of the Grand Canyon with its sweeping and overwhelming beauty.
The child merely shrugs his shoulders with the unheard sound of an unimpressed “ehhhh”
The dad slowly shakes his head in disbelief–as if to say “you’ve got to be kidding me??”

The last scene is of the dad at the wheel of the car with his son strapped into the back seat. The car is stopped in the middle of a road that one assumes is in Yellowstone Park as a massive Bison has sauntered up to the child’s window and is staring down at a now very impressed young man.
He looks up at the bison then over to his dad with an ear to ear grin across his face, as the dad finally has a sense of satisfaction in having found something in this most majestic world that has left his son speechless. . .

I believe this commercial speaks volumes to our current plight of jadedness.

It seems we’ve become so inwardly involved with our technology, our gizmos and social media overload that we are failing to be impressed, let alone acknowledging, the outward wonders which surround us each and every day.

Are we failing when it comes to our youth who seem to be more impressed by video games, television and gadgets than by the gifts of Nature? Are we failing ourselves when we don’t stop long enough to wonder at a sunset, the blooms of a flower, the majesty of a tree—no longer impressed by blossoms, sprouting, growth or natural wonder?

I stop in on occasion to read various posts by other bloggers.
I am awed and humbled most often by the shared perspectives that are offered–be it thoughts regarding the beautiful gifts of Nature, the joy of creativity found in the Arts, or the teachings and shared delvings into our relationship with the Creator of the Universe.

One Christian site, whose author pretty much tells it like it is, mixes allegory with reality while painting a most colorful observation of the relationship of man to the Holy Word of God.
In so doing he has drawn the ire of a huge crowd of non believers, as well as a few lukewarm believers who find his view a bit much, extreme, or in the thoughts of some, just totally wrong.

I for one think that Christians (of any denomination) shouldn’t dumb things down nor should we sugar coat the Word of God—To the Believer, the word is The Word and to honor that Word it is what we do—I believe we call that worship. . .
To a non believer, however, it is all simply mumbo jumbo hocus pocus.
I therefore applaud this blogger’s approach to what we Christians deem as Truth—but what is Truth to some, speaks of falsehood to another. . .as is sadly, much the way of the world. . .

Unfortunately this particular blogger is besieged with vehement commentary that reeks of on-line bullying.
The teacher and mother in me gets quite upset with the ugly things thrown his way, which are in turn, subsequently thrown to those who respond with supportive comments. It’s one thing to disagree with a fellow blogger while offering a counter thought but to sling ugly names and accusations is something else entirely.

My thought is if you don’t like what you’re reading, for Heaven’s sake, go find what it is you do like reading. And if you find something you consider out in left field, well, seek the field that makes you happy. . .allowing the Christians their right to speak their minds while allowing all the other worldly and varying religions and non religions to speak their minds as well.

The blogging world is truly a vast region to be sure. . .

Why do we attack others and their opinions?
We are all still entitled to opinions are we not?
Good or bad?
Wrong or right?

What does a blog battle of believer verses non-believer have to do with a commercial, the grandeur of nature and of you and I. . .everyone must now be wondering. . .well. . .

I suppose it’s just that I marvel at those who don’t marvel in the created marvels which have us constantly and marvelously surrounded.
How does one stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon, or along the shoreline of an ocean or at the base of a massive tree without feeling awed, wowed, or simply swept up in the greatness by feeling perhaps humbled and small?

Maybe if we turned our sites outward, rather than inward.
Maybe if we found the wonderment in our natural surroundings.
Maybe if we fought less with one another and. . .
wondered more,
wandered more,
marveled more. . .

Yes, I claim the Word of God to be the Word offered to me, and to anyone else for that matter,
who has ear to hear or desire to seek. . .
I in turn offer it here, in small humbled doses, as He offers it to me to share.
I am a vessel,
a vehicle,
a facilitator.

I don’t have all the answers to all the questions.
I stumble and fall most often along this journey known as life.
I make mistakes and screw up royally as I am no poster child for what is Holy and Pure for I know that I am broken and flawed. . .
Yet it is in that brokeness that I find. . .
Hope,
Healing,
Salvation. . .

That’s just . . .
my thought,
my opinion,
my belief—
Something I’m still pretty certain I’m allowed to have. . .
Despite it not falling in-line with that of the World’s. . .

So if you don’t feel much like wondering, wandering or marveling in the marvelous world around you, you are free to leave in order to visit other places. . .
It is here that I hope to offer morsels, crumbs, and tastes of simple Wonderment from that which is truly Divine. . .

You painted me a picture

If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
Vincent van Gogh

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(views of a winter’s veining sunset / Julie Cook / 2015)

You painted me a picture as lovely as can be. . .
a sweeping sea of color as far as the eye could see

First blue, then purple, then pink and red
A quilt of many colors before me you have spread

You painted me a picture to remind me who you are
You painted my name across the heavens in each and every star

In my often busy hectic world I forget that you are near
Yet during every shower each tiny raindrop holds your tear

You painted me a picture and wait for me to see
Always ready and waiting right beside me you will be

Yesterday, today and tomorrow will always remain the same
With you forever waiting for me to finally call your name

You painted me a picture because you love me oh so much
And beautiful is this painted sky with just your single touch

I stopped what I was doing long enough to catch the view
Little did I know it’s the window which leads me to you

You painted me a picture that is truly one of a kind
A picture made from your heart, love so amazing and Divine

An evening’s wonder

Shut your eyes, wait, think of nothing. Now, open them … one sees nothing but a great coloured undulation. What then? An irradiation and glory of colour. This is what a picture should give us … an abyss in which the eye is lost, a secret germination, a coloured state of grace … loose conciousness. Descend with the painter into the dim tangled roots of things, and rise again from them in colors, be steeped in the light of them.
Paul Cezanne

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Excerpt from “Do not go gentle into the night”
Dylan Thomas

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(western sky at a Winter’s sunset / Julie Cook / 2015)

Dry crisp clean air sweeps downward, deep across the land.
All the while as a myriad of minuscule molecules swirl with palpable excitement.
Invisible dust particles sashay from side to side,
as brilliant rays of light streak across the horizon.
The color catchers of light, that gauzy blanket of clouds, fans ever outward acting as a giant scooping net capturing all of Red.
Gleefully the Master Creator slings a seemingly sopping wet brush full of scarlet pigment outward from the western sky.
Orange and yellow drip and ooze off of a massive palette like melting ice-cream from a cone.

Ominous?
Foreboding?
Harbinger?
Perhaps. . .

Yet it is the sheer magnitude and overwhelming sense of mastery which now shrouds any and all worry or fear. Brilliancy is effortlessly scattered out across the heavens.
Who can doubt such a Master Artist and His existence while standing in awe of such a display?
Can mere meteorology and science neatly put this canvas into a tight fitting box?
They tell of the pieces and the parts, of the hows and whys. . .
They tell of the lengths of rays, curvatures of the planet, the makeup of an atmosphere and of why an eye may see. . .

Yet there is more to this dazzling painting and its perception than what literally meets the eye.
The inspiring observance of this masterful moment affords the viewer insight into the telling strokes, the intimate fingerprints, of the Master Artist. Selfless abandon covers this canvas as the designs of the Divine are poured out to each viewer, freely given. A vast gift of love poured out from one heart to another. . .benevolently offered without expectations, demands or requirements from the Master Creator to the created.

The day is now done and gone is the sun. . .as we sweetly dream as to what new wonders will soon be in sight. . .

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Hallelujah

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”
― Pope John Paul II

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(tiny redheaded woodpecker / Julie Cook / 2015)

And on this January day,
as the sun rose high into the crisp blue sky,
all of Nature could be heard rejoicing. . .

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

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(female Flicker looking skyward / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(female sparrow nibbling a branch / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(both Peaches and a lizard enjoy a respite from the cold rains / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(closeup of someone who should still be hibernating up on my sleeve / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(small bed of moss / Julie Cook / 2015)

And as the beautiful sun settled downward in the distant western sky,
at the ending of this beautiful January day,
all of Nature could be heard whispering . . .

Amen, Amen, Amen

DSC00054(Day is done as the sun sets in the western sky / Julie Cook / 2015)