prayer and the victory over death

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


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

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

That word and act would be that of prayer.

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

Prayer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

things visible and invisible

From the creed, then, we learn that all creation is caught up in a drama that
sweeps from the beginning of time to its end.
There is a narrative arc to the history not only of humanity,
but of the cosmos—‘all things visible and invisible.’
The cast of this drama includes everyone alive, everyone who ever lived,
and everyone who will live.
All will rise and be judged for the actions and omissions,
small and great, of their everyday lives.

Dr. Scott Hahn
from The Creed


(a fungus among us at Cades Cove, The Great Smoky National Park, TN /Julie Cook / 2018)

“If human beings had really tried to invent a god,
we would never have invented the God of Christianity.
He’s just too terrifying.
Our God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-holy, and omnipresent.
There’s no place to run and hide from Him,
no place where we might secretly indulge a favorite vice.
We can’t even retreat into the dark corners of our minds to fantasize about
that vice without God knowing it right away.”

Scott Hahn

All images of mushrooms and toadstools–some edible, most not, found in Cades Cove, The
Great Smoky Mountains National Park)

Somebody needs to eat them….

“Nature alone is antique,
and the oldest art a mushroom.”

Thomas Carlyle

Toadstools and mushrooms…the prevalent fungus among us…
With all those fungi surely someone out there has to be a beneficiary…
as this squirrel is doing his best to make the most of a free meal…

One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak,
eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt
the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does,
for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?
To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand,
for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Romans 14:2-4

traipsing in the woods amongst the fungi

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Traipse:
intransitive verb
transitive verb
traipsed, traips′ing
to walk, wander, tramp, or gad

When out in the woods my husband, more often then not, walks with a sense
of focused purpose and direction..

Me on the other hand, well I tend to lag behind…
traipsing about, camera in tow….

(all pics taken in the mid west Georgia woods last Sunday–Julie Cook / 2017)

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens,
and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10

Beauty found in the lowly

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
― Confucius

“The lowly he sets on high and those who mourn are lifted to safety.”
Job 5:11

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A walk in the woods on a damp rainy day holds a wealth of often overlooked wonders. . .

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(all photos taken from a trip to the woods / Troup Co, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2015)

Learning, relearning and acceptance

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
― Benjamin Franklin

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(two pictures of the same little toadstool, the first one is with the old camera, the second with the new camera, I think the old camera works just as well. . .Julie Cook / 2015)

I think we all remember yesterday’s post regarding my new camera fiasco.
You remember, right?
The fancy smancy one my husband gave me for Christmas?
The one I was having to venture out onto a new learning curve over?
As in it has all sorts of different lens.
The one that scared me a little, actually a lot, but which I decided learning how to use would be a great new adventure. . .?

Well—(insert heavy sigh)—-

It’s all packed back up in the shipping box complete with the macro lens and camera bag along with the packing slip.
Also the additional zoom lens I decided I needed after it turned out the fancy smancy camera could not zoom in on distant objects as well as my old point and shoot, it too is also boxed up and ready for return shipping.

(insert another heavy sigh)

It seems I may just want the best of both worlds and that sadly does not exist.

The new zoom lens arrived today.
I attached it to the camera and went outside to “practice” zooming.
Imagine my chagrin when the new lens no more zoomed up on anything than I could by squinting.
The old Nikon point and shoot with its fixed lens, not an interchangeable lens, could certainly zoom.

AAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHH could be heard echoing off the back woods.

I immediately marched inside and proceed to call the good people at Sony.
The first person did not speak English and I worried that he knew about as much about cameras as he did English.
I thanked him and hung up.
I then called back and reached a nice and informative young lady.
I began my tale of frustration.
She assured me that the camera my husband gave me was top of the line, which I knew, and that it would take great pictures but it just wasn’t going to zoom like my old camera. They (Sony) had not yet come out with a lens for the a6000 e-mount series that could do what I wanted. Which I find odd. Why put a camera on the market without providing it, and those who purchase it, with the capacity to do what other cameras can do? Plus she told me lenses were going to be a huge investment.
UGH.

She suggested a nice point and shoot that had a super zoom ability as well as a macro setting yet wouldn’t “macro” to the extent of the fancy smancy camera’s macro lens, yet could provide most likely what I was looking for in a camera. But didn’t I have a point and shoot already in my old camera and hadn’t I wanted to try something new, hence the new camera? A new camera that just couldn’t do what the old camera was capable of doing.

Dilemma and frustration were now reaching a crescendo within me as I fretted over what to do.

It remains boxed ready to be returned. The point and shoot would probably be the more practical of the two as it would be a great travel camera and an all over “go to” when wanting to take a variety of pictures. The fancy little camera on the other hand did take great pictures with great close ups but that’s about it.

Whoever would think that the purchase of a camera could be so vexing?

So as I wrestle with the decision to keep or to return the camera, I am reminded that not only is the learning of how to work new things, along with the new skills associated with said new things, ever important, the acknowledgement and accepting of where our abilities lie is equally as important.

Multiple lenses and what all that would entail with the investing in endless pieces for a camera that requires a great deal of care and work may not, for me–a mere grab the camera and go for it individual, be very practical. And therein lies my issue—what I am is one thing and what I want to be is something else entirely. Accepting what I am and where I am as far as causal hobbyist verses working toward a level of professionalism is the key to sorting out this little issue.

So as for now I will continue to think about what I want in a camera while more importantly I begin to learn to accept the reality of my needs verses my wants–in both who I am and with what it is that I need in order to be successful in not only the big things but as well as the little things in this thing we call life.

Be careful what you ask for. . .

“You cannot always depend on prayers to be answered the way you want them answered but you can always depend on God. God, the loving Father often denies us those things which in the end would prove harmful to us. Every boy wants a revolver at age four, and no father yet has ever granted that request. Why should we think God is less wise? Someday we will thank God not only for what He gave us, but also for that which He refused.”
― Fulton J. Sheen

“For prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted.”
― C.S. Lewis

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(a practice shot of a toadstool with the new macro lens / Julie Cook / 2015)

Stressed and stretched as far as your limit allows, you decide praying for patience is your only hope.
Oddly life only seems to get worse.
You then try praying for even more patience.
Life gets almost unbearable.
Confused and troubled, it finally dawns on you. . .

God is no fairy godmother waving a magic wand.

There is no heavenly magic Fraiy-God holding a wand over our heads, granting us our heart’s desire.
God is no genie hiding in a lamp waiting to grant wishes.
As much as we wish He worked that way, jumping in to give us magically what we decide we need, He does not.
Praying for patience results in circumstances requiring more patience—call it a heavenly learning curve if you will, as our lives are indeed all about learning and growing.

Enter my latest learning curve.

I thought I knew what I really wanted for Christmas.
A brand new camera.
Oooooo
I’ve always had a little camera of sorts over the years.
When I was growing up, my dad was always into cameras— so naturally, starting when I was around 10, I had my very own small kodak. Remember those flash cubes?
Eventually I graduated to a 35mm when I was in high school–that was back in the day when we actually used real film, had to focus a camera ourselves and attach an expensive flash attachment.

Enter the digital age–an age I have reluctantly dared to venture.

A trusty, ever evolving, automatic point and shoot has basically filled my needs—a camera to take pictures of our son growing up, family trips and vacations, gatherings of friends etc.—-and like the proverbial watch, any camera of mine would need to take a licking and keep on ticking as I tend to be a tad rough on things.

As I got older, I eventually retired from teaching and my sights turned to new forms of creativity.

With newly added gusto, I picked up my camera, started taking pictures and started this little blog of mine.
That was 2 years ago February.

Forever a stickler for detail, I have always loved those closeup magnified images of the simplest objects. Images of random things such as bugs and flowers, items both animate and inanimate, magnified to offer the viewer a zoomed-in hyper image of detail—it’s that wow factor of photography. I suppose that’s why I have such an affinity for the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle ages with their beautiful tiny attentions to detail. And whereas I am no longer really painting or working on my own version of those manuscripts, I am, however, seeking detail—just in a more photographic approach.

Enter a desire for macro.

Frustrated by the fact that my latest Nikon point and shoot could only zoom up on closeup objects just so much, I decided I needed to expand my horizons.
However. . .a new camera would require some learning and adjusting.
It should be known that I am a fierce creature of habit (be quiet Sophie)
I am far from being a camera pro.
I don’t know apertures, shutter speeds, back lighting, yada, yada.
I am no techie.
No pintrest, no instagram, no flicker, no twitter, no facebook.
I don’t like complicated.
I like simple.
I like easy.
I like pure.
Hummmm

I set my sites on a Sony Ax 5100. It would require the ability to change out the lens of the camera.
Hummmm. . .
The camera would still be smallish, sleek and automatic to a certain degree. . .I could certainly change out a lens or two right?

I’ve looked at this particular little camera on and off for about a year now at BestBuy (don’t go there, that’s another post for another day)

I had used a Sony in my classroom and was pretty certain I wanted another one now.
I called Sony.
I explained my level of knowledge—that being low.
I explained my wants in photography.
I explained my likes and dislikes in my current camera.
The kind Sony lady told that the 5100 should do the trick.
Next I wrote down all of the info on a piece of paper (price, order numbers, phone numbers) that I then, not so discreetly, left for my husband to find, and with fingers crossed, he would utilize as his shopping list for my Christmas gift.

On Christmas morning, much to my excitement, I opened a package that contained what I just knew had to be my camera!!!
It was a camera,but wait, this wasn’t the one I had written down.
This was a 6000
What?!
AAAGGGGGHHHHHH
In my husband’s very big but misdirected heart, he figured bigger was better and should not I, his wife deserve, the bigger which obviously equates to better camera? There is sweetness in that thinking but it doesn’t help in detailed specifics.
Lets just say a 6000 is for more of a picture taking aficionado and not the queen of point, shoot, click.
UGH.

Add to the now huge unanticipated learning curve of a very fancy smancy camera that came with one lens attached, along with a macro lens found hiding in another package, as now neither of the two lens could zoom up on far way images, like the birds and deer I so like to stalk with a camera, not like my now old Nikon—hence another lens would be required–making a total of 3 lens.
Ugh.

Enter frustration.

Do you know how to hide disappointment on your face?
I do not.
Which in turn leads to disappointment in the gift giver, aka my husband, who is still trying to figure out why bigger is not better.
I now need a third lens.
May I just say lens are not cheap, with some of them costing 3 to 4 times the cost of the freaking camera.
UGH
Christmas night found us online seeking one more lens.
It should be here tomorrow.

In the meanwhile. . .

Today, after the holiday fracas has finally and slowly subsided as the Christmas company has all departed, returning back home, with Life now slowly beginning to regain its routine, I settled into the studying of this new camera.

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A couple of practice shots with the macro lens appear promising yet tells me that there is still much more to be practiced and learned, yet I did feel a hopeful tinge of excitement edging out the disappointed frustration.

Enter the pink tiny crab.
He was on a small twig of driftwood I found on Oregon’s Cannon Beach a summer ago. He was deceased but preserved perfectly. I brought him home. Who knew he still had sand specks stuck on his body?!

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How about a small dried piece of shelf fungus. . .

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So as I continue this uncomfortable yet productive journey of learning, I am reminded that with any sort of wanting and asking, there will always be responsibilities attached to such, there will be many lessons to be learned, practice and skills will have to be experienced and mastered, as there will be frustration and work.

Things should not always come easy to us.
Things should stretch us, mould us, move us.
God made us to be entities that can learn and grow, evolve and grow.
We are not stagnant creatures.
Yet learning and growing is not easy nor is it always meant to be comfortable.
Beginning the acquisition of any new skill is hard and tough yet the satisfaction of mastering something challenging, not being given or magically granted success but rather toiling, sweating and fighting over it all, is certainly oh so sweet.

So on this new Monday of this new week, of this new month and of this brand new year, make certain that the next time you ask for or wish for something— you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and are willing to be challenged, pushed and pulled mentally as well as physically. Trust me, you’ll be the better for it in the long run.
Now where’s that other new lens. . .