the waiting found in unction

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’…
I am grateful that Jesus cried out those words, because it means that I need never fear to
cry them out myself.
I need never fear, nor feel any sense of guilt, during the inevitable moments of forsakenness.
They come to us all.
They are part of the soul’s growth.”

Madeleine L’Engle

dscn1087
((Killarney National Park / County Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

Sometimes it’s difficult seeing that which waits ahead…
or that which is just beyond our focus…

For the roadblocks, pitfalls, snarls and snares that seem to be directly blocking our path…
loom ever so large impeding our field of vision…
they are so demanding and are so draining that we lose sight of what will be
further down the road, beyond where we are now….

They vie for our full attention making us temporarily blind to everything and anything else.
Life is lived as if in a dark tunnel with only a tiny snippet of light which seems
so terribly far away.

Maybe it’s the heavy baggage from the past…
that which seems to frustratingly and relentlessly hold us prisoner….
Tied as a dead weight… hanging stubbornly from our necks.

Or maybe it’s something else….

It was a long weekend…which is now giving way to what will most likely be a long week,
for and with Dad….for me…for us all….

I go daily because he asks me to come.
Yet on the rare day that I stay behind in order to pick up my own life’s pieces,
my thoughts, worries, concerns are there…with him.

I stay later and later because he asks me why must I go so soon….
as if my sitting for hours on end by his bed should be so soon….

His wife no longer knows that she is his wife…
as dementia now erases that later part of her life.

Decisions, hard decisions, will soon be made.

I battle a long and often harrowing drive to and from…
Sitting and waiting…watching… Dad…
as all he can do is to lay there and wait.

Weakly and barely audible, I hear an odd question…
“Do people think I’m nice?”
Where did that come from I wonder….
“Of course people think you’re nice Dad, why wouldn’t they?”
“I don’t know”…as his words trail off as the heavy lids fight to stay open…

Yep, it’s going to be long…as it continues being hard…as it only seems to grow harder and more difficult with each passing day…

The priest came Sunday to anoint Dad and to pray the prayer of extreme unction…

And so now,
in the mystery of that prayer of transition,
we find ourselves now resting and waiting….
As Dad and God work things out….

“As you are outwardly anointed with this holy oil,
so may our heavenly Father grant you the inward anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Of his great mercy, may he forgive you your sins, release you from suffering,
and restore you to wholeness and strength.
May he deliver you from all evil, preserve you in all goodness,
and bring you to everlasting life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

layers

“Wherever you come near the human race
there’s layers and layers of nonsense.”

Thornton Wilder

DSCN3520 (1)
(cliff wall at Little River Canyon State Park / Alabama / Julie Cook / 2015)

Upon first glance the casual observer is greeted by an unassuming rock cliff,
gently embraced by summer’s lush growth…
The rich sensuous greens of life enveloping the hard unmoving foundation of a planet.

But upon closer inspection one is met with the…
complexity of striation,
the melding of coloration,
the confusion of abstraction
and the frustration of complication.

DSCN3520

And then after scrutinizing what was initially the obvious,
which has now emerged into something more along the lines of the miraculous…
we see the wonderment of the unique individual fingerprints of an Omnipotent Creator…

And yet sadly…
some observers simply continue to see a bunch of rocks…..

DSCN3521

“I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other…
Isaiah 45:5-6

lost between the lines

DSCN0711
(leaded bullseye glass, Cobh, Co Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

My glasses broke.
In more places than one….
They are unrepairable and I am in desperate need of being able to see…clearly.

I did however finally manage to find time for an appointment,
which has come none too soon as
I have considered resorting to adding some super glue and or a little duct tape…
My husband, the jeweler who fixes all types of glasses all the time,
has flatly observed that mine are beyond his help…

In about a week I should have a new pair…
A new pair that will not be hanging on by a prayer.
A pair that will free me from tilting my head and listing dangerously too far to the right…
Plus I’m hoping that everything will be much more clear and focused….

If seeing clearly was only so simple for this world of ours…

If this misguided, skewed, and oh so lost world in which we live…
could simply slap on a pair of super corrected glasses…
then maybe, just maybe, things would come into focus…
And that which has become grey, fuzzy and blurred beyond recognition, would be readily and easily discerned.

Instead we are living in a world, a society and a culture that is confused…
As it knows not as to whether it is coming or going…
for we use to know…
right from wrong…
good from bad…
boys from girls…
girls from boys…
light from dark…
up from down…
too much from too little
respect from disrespect
moderate from extreme
kindness from hate
Hope from despair
Truth from lies
God’s word from no word…

for in this blurry, fuzzy, lack of clarity world…
the word of God has been lost between the lines….

“‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, 41 which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, 42 I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.
Leviticus 26:40-42

STOP!!!! There’s another sheep. . .

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.
I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

Daniel 2:21-23

DSCN0884
(a sheep farm on the road to Killarney / Julie Cook / 2015)

STOP THE VAN!!!!
“I can’t get a good shot while we’re moving. . .the sheep isn’t budging, you’re going to hit it!!!!!. ..”

DSCN1488
(a sheep sits contently on the road somewhere in County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

And so was the almost daily drill of the journey.
Stoping and going— for here was a sheep, there was a sheep and everywhere was a sheep sheep. . .

It is the poignant reminder that throughout each of our lives we will, inevitably, find ourselves on our very own and personal road to Damascus.
Wether we are believers or not.

And depending on our own perspective, it is either joyfully or frustratingly that most of us will end up on that same road over and over again, throughout our lives, as it often seems to take more than one chance encounter for things to truly sink in.

It is a road that we ourselves have each personally carved. A road that initially appears to be leading us in the direction of our thoughts, dreams and sights. . .a course that we perhaps set long ago, affording the opportunity of venturing forth, moving forward, as we seek our supposed heart’s desire…

Yet, if the truth be told, it is a road of destiny complete with the blinding encounter so often necessary to realign a misguided path. It’s just that for some of us, we need a constant stream of “encounters” before we finally “get it” and allow things to finally sink in…

Be it mere happenstance or Divine Intervention, we are struck, knocked upside the head and thrown to the ground, blinded and overwhelmed by whatever it is that is necessary in order to get our attention, change our course, wake us up, turn us around while eventually leading us to our true and proper path.

And so this journey was not really different from any other…

Setting off I had hoped, anticipated and even expected… something—but as to what that something was, it was not clear. . .

There were the sheep…

DSCN1713

DSCN1818

DSCN1766

Those symbolic, innocent yet oddly mentally challenged creatures that have always spoken to my heart.
Gazing out the window, with my head resting on the glass, I stare mindlessly at the myriad sea of gently grazing animals as familiar words whispered through my thoughts…

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Luke 15: 1-7

Yet this idyllic gentle image, laced with with its warm sense of safety, peace and security, was suddenly jarred apart by the blinding image of sacrifice and suffering that punctuated the seemingly pastoral image of serenity with the mysterious utterance of a long ago vision which poured itself out upon my thoughts like the deeply crimson colored blood oozing from a fresh cut. . .

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,

nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Isaish 53: 7-9

At some point there was a wistful private reflection spoken aloud by simple habit as we all gazed upon a mysterious landscape… “how could any of this be seen as the mere happenstance of the collision of random particles…”

DSCN1088
(Lady’s View over the Ring of Kerry, County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN0960
(Somewhere along the Dingle peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN0928
(somewhere along the road in County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I came seeking the wisdom buried deep in the past of what was as I strained to hear the ancient voices that lay hidden below my feet. . .

DSCN1626
(an unknown grave marker / Julie Cook / 2015)

Delightful to me to be on an island hill, on the crest of a rock,
that I might often watch the quiet sea;

That I might watch the heavy waves above the bright water,
as they chant music to their Father everlastingly.

That I might watch its smooth, bright-bordered shore, no
gloomy pastime, that I might hear the cry of the strange birds,
a pleasing sound;

That I might hear the murmur of the long waves against the
rocks, that I might hear the sound of the sea, like mourning
beside a grave;

That I might watch the splendid flocks of birds over the well-
watered sea, that I might see its mighty whales, the greatest wonder.

That I might watch its ebb and flood in their course,
that my name should be–it is a secret that I tell–“he
who turned his back upon Ireland;”

That I might have a contrite heart as I watch,
that I might repent my many sins, hard to tell;

That I might bless the Lord who rules all things,
heaven with its splendid host, earth, ebb, and flood…

Poem attributed to St Columcille (521-597 AD)

Yet it was late, when it was all almost over, with so much having been said and done, seen and savored…
Three spoken words resonated more deeply than any other morsel offered previously to my weary and worn five senses. . .

Be at Peace. . .”

And so, having fallen from my horse, stuck blind and confused—the clarity of something and someone so much more than myself has come clearly into focus—the scales having been removed from my eyes– and for the first time in what has been a lifetime, I can see…

And so it is…

“Be At Peace”

DSCN1730
(a sheep gazes out over the Atlantic among the cliffs of County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

You never know who’s watching

Read my letter to the old folks, and give my love to them,
and tell my brothers to be always watching unto prayer, and when the good old ship of Zion comes along, to be ready to step aboard

Harriet Tubman

Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.
C. S. Lewis

DSC01976
(two ghost crabs eyeing one another / Julie Cook / 2015)

Are we ever truly alone, left to our own devices, quirks, likes, dislikes. . .
or
Are we scrutinized, analyzed, picked apart and studied by hidden eyes?

Do we hide away feeling safe in the stillness of what it means to be alone. . .
With the quiet seeping into our veins, offering a soothing comfort–
Where freedom is allowed to soar?

Are we lost in the silence of one?
Either pulling a welcoming blanket close, warding off the chill of frosty glances–
Or do we grow uncomfortable with perspiring nerves from heated examinations?

Watching
Looking
Seeing
Wondering

We are watched over before we are even born.
Monitored, measured and observed. . .
Wondered about, marveled over and hoped for. . .

Yet we grow constantly eagerly independent,
fighting any and all watchful care.
Hidden secrets kept from those who see.
Struggling to hide away from prying eyes.

Yet there will always be two who see. . .
Two watchful ones who know. . .
Ourselves and our Creator—

The question remains, are we comfortable with either set of watchful eyes?

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121:3-8

The importance of the angle

“I don’t care much for facts, am not much interested in them; you can’t stand a fact up, you’ve got to prop it up, and when you move to one side a little and look at it from that angle, it’s not thick enough to cast a shadow in that direction.”
William Faulkner

DSC01714
(a bowl of freshly picked blueberries / Julie Cook / 2015)

Ode to the importance of angles. . .

I’m not talking about geometry or trigonometry
I’m not talking about Physics or Calculus
I’m not talking about cartography or the study of trajectory
I’m not talking about cameras, photography or architecture
I’m not talking about framing or woodworking
I’m not talking about golf, tennis, football, baseball, soccer, or hockey. . .

I’m simply talking about picking blueberries. . .

Upon first inspection of my blueberry bushes, I readily and immediately see exactly what needs picking.
Those lovely succulent orbs of royal blue to purple to practically black dangling and dotting the green backdrop like ornaments on a Christmas tree.

Working feverishly in the heat of day, gingerly canvasing the bush, I begin the task of pulling, plucking and gently twisting until the bush gives release of her tiny treasures. . .as I notice several berries sporting tiny little piercing holes. . . pecked neatly in the center of each berry.
As in pecking birds. . .
I am more than willing to share my bounty with my feathered friends but I would hope that the birds would pick and take as opposed to pecking, damaging and leaving.

Resigned to having no choice in my sharing, I let out one long heat laden sigh. . .

After an excruciatingly hot 40 minutes or so of slowly making my way round and around the bush, standing on tippy toes and squatting way down low, it appears as if I have gotten all the berries that are ripe, leaving those red and green berries for another day as they still require a few more days.

DSC01713

The thoughts of a cool AC and an even colder cool shower were sweetly beckoning to me like a siren to the weary sailor. . .that is until I bend over, picking up a few berries that had fallen down into the pine straw. . .and that’s when happenstance would have it’s wicked way with me.
I cast my gaze slightly upward, up underneath the bush. . .and that’s when I saw it.. . or rather that’s when I saw them. . .
I was aghast.
Dangling high and low, as if to tease even more sweat from my heatstroke brow, there hanging and hidden from the sight of the obvious are a myriad more overtly ripe blue and purple berries.

Hidden from the sight of the obvious.

DSC01712

I begin crawling up and under, scrounging on bended knees, reaching and stretching ever upward, around and over. . .agin and agin. . .
Plucking until, thinking triumphantly, I have finally gotten every last berry. . .
. . .that is until I turn my head to the left. . .

And that’s when it hits me. . .
This picking business isn’t about the obvious. . .no, not at all.
The key to successful picking is knowing about the angle.
The obvious is one thing.
The obvious is easy.
Everyone sees the obvious.
Even the birds see the obvious. . .taking full advantage of such obvious pickings.
The key to success, the key to the fullest basket or bowl of berries,
isn’t resting in the obvious. . .
No. . .I have discovered, in the heat of this late June day while clutching a burgeoning bowl of berries, that the key to success lies not in the obvious. . .
but rather the key lies hidden in the all important angle.

Being keen to bend, cocking ones head, peering up and over, or under and around.
With the angle of vision being paramount. . .

Being able to go into any endeavor, be it picking berries or solving any of life’s toughest troubles, knowing that what greets you initially is not all that there is—for there is certainly more— will be the true ticket to success—

So the next time you’re faced with one of life’s vexing problems—don’t consider the obvious, that which is staring you in the face. . . be willing to cock your head, looking over and around, up and above, hidden and way down low . . .

You might just be surprised at how quickly you’ll fill your cup,
your heart, your life, your bowl. . .
filling it full with even more ripe berries than what you had initially expected. . .

Now it’s time for that shower!!!

Hide and seek

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
Rumi

“Listen to me,” cried Syme with extraordinary emphasis. “Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front”
― G.K. Chesterton

DSC01503
(the parting of the storm / Julie Cook

Where are you hiding my beloved?

Pray tell what barriers separate love?

Do you seek as you are sought?
Do you spend your waking hours searching?
Just as you spend your slumber and dreams, hiding?

How shall the clouds of consciousness part?
Will you draw them back, dispelling the shadows
or
Will you draw them closed, blocking the radiance from sight?

Sorely you are in need as you heart thirsts to be quenched
Your tears are spent as your spirit sinks low

A lone whisper is heard riding across the winds. . .
Lift your face my child. . .
Allow the Light to wash away the darkness–

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul
Deuteronomy 4:29

Perspective

DSC00653
Image of the Eiffel Tower / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”
Helen Keller