the gift of the miraculous

“There are many going afar to marvel at the heights of mountains,
the mighty waves of the sea, the long courses of great rivers,
the vastness of the ocean, the movements of the stars, yet they leave themselves unnoticed!”

Saint Augustine


(The Mayor has discovered she can drive her limousine up under the kitchen table in order
to investigate what makes the table tick / Julie Cook / 2018)

I’ve been marveling recently.

Marveling at the development of a wee small person.
No surprise there I would imagine.

Yet this marveling of mine, however, goes beyond the mere grandmotherly marveling over the
leaps and strides made by a baby who appears to miraculously change and grow,
if not day by day, but more like minute by millisecond…

As each new moment brings a brand new advancement.

To roll,
to sit,
to pull,
to stand,
to eat,
to chew,
to taste,
to utter sounds,
to express likes and dislikes…
to demonstrate joy and anguish,
to recognize pain and self-satisfaction.

The discoveries made of both self and surroundings are each incredible to behold.

Quite amazing really.

I think back to the time when I was once a new parent myself.

I was so caught up in what that responsibility entailed…
coupled with my working outside of the home while just trying to get us all from one day
to the next, in one safe piece…
so much so that all of that overrode my ability to actually marvel.

Of course, there were glimpses and revelations that would leave me without words but life
would demand its way…leaving me running at such a frenetic pace that basking in the
minute by minute miracles was only afforded in increments of breaths.
Life called for a family to step up to the plate and I had to answer…
no luxury found for stopping to marvel…albeit fleetingly.

It is only now in my older age…an age that gives way to both collected knowledge and wisdom,
that I can thankfully step back from the moment while blessedly stopping to take it all in.

And I am left speechless.

What we take for granted, or rather what we merely assume as we are just too busy to
acknowledge anything else, is truly nothing less than spectacular.

And so no, I am not the first nor will I be the last grandparent to marvel over a grandchild…

And yes, there have been countless numbers of psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists,
doctors, and psychiatrists over the past millennium who have all closely
studied child development…

So this marveling of mine, as it were, is really nothing new nor even very special…

But…

This marveling, this wonderment, of which I speak is not found in the science of
human development…
It is not found in the measurements of statistics or in averages…
It is not found in numbers or sequential advancements…
But rather it is found in that which makes no sense…
found in that which is beyond comprehension.

Because what I am currently witnessing taking place, day by day, breath by breath,
within one small person, over the course of these past nine months, is nothing less than
miraculous.

So I suppose we could say that her first nine months were hidden from view…
yet were no less amazing.

The fact is that I have been given the opportunity of actually viewing the past nine months
a bit more up close and personal as those first nine months were watched not only by doctors
but moment by moment by the One who breathes life into all that is…

I suppose we could say she has actually lived both seen and unseen now for 18 months…
all of which have been cemented in my heart.

And so as the calendar prepares to give way to a new season, we find ourselves standing
before the door of the impending season of Advent.

A season that brings humankind together–
offering the heightened sense of anticipation as we prepare to both watch and wait…

Is it, therefore, a coincidence that as I watch and marvel over one growing baby,
God so chose the same miraculous gift of a baby?
A gift that has been freely given to anyone who is willing to receive it?

A baby who grew both seen and unseen…
A baby who was formed in the miraculous…
A baby whose family marveled, just as I marvel, over his milestones.

Explanations will always fall away when given the gift of the miraculous…

And Mary said,
“Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”
And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

Caritas

“Intelligence and love are not in separate compartments:
love is rich in intelligence and intelligence is full of love.”

Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth: Caritas in Veritate


(a modern day icon depicting Saints Benedict and his sister Scholastica)

Ok so if the truth be told, I have about 6 or so posts in the making just sitting in
the draft pile waiting for expansion and or completion.
Much like the pile of books that I keep accumulating…
the must-reads that must be prioritized…
add a heavy and liberal dose of life…
and thus so many good things are simply left hanging and or waiting…

But as I am a strong believer in the power of the Holy Spirit,
there will always be a good nudging or even a shove into the direction I need to go.

So since today (yesterday for those reading this as intended on Sunday)
February 10th is the feast day of St Scholastica.

“Who??” you’re probably asking…
We’ll get to her in a minute.

Sometimes I am so tired or weary when putting the finishing touches on a post
that in my strained eyed state, I’ll push publish rather than preview well before it’s time…
In turn, sending myself into a fit of near hysteria as I try to undo what I have
erroneously done lest anyone pop onto a half-finished and more ill edited post
than they should.

Add to my posting troubles that my favorite clerics,
all who oddly are each located on the Isle of Great Britain…
those being that delightfully rouge Anglican Bishop, that no-fuss,
no holds barred free Presbyterian Pastor and that rather conservative Orthodox Australian
Catholic monk stuck in the middle of the UK…
each has been serving up more than the ample plate of refreshing and deeply
heartening truths—all of which is making me run around like some sort of chicken
with my head cut off as I’m finding myself hard pressed just trying to keep up—
Trying to discern and pick what I must in turn digest and later share…

Father, or rather Dom, Hugh offers a most intriguing Latin-based themed post entitled
Contemplatio, Consideratio & Caritas—
or for us laymen, contemplation, consideration, and love, or charity,
whichever word you’d like to use.

Fr Hugh focuses in on St Benedict of Nursia and Benedict’s sister St Scholastica,
along with the power of prayer and what is the true nature of our actions and prayers.

St Benedict is considered to be the father of Western Monasticism and is the patron
Saint of Europe. A saint whose current job,
I would suspect, is quite busy given the growing secularism sweeping
across Europe but that’s a post for another day…
like I say, waiting in the queue.

This saintly brother-sister duo was born and raised in Itlay,
in what is modern-day Norcia, sometime
in the 5th century. Some historians believe the two had been twins,
others merely note them being merely brother and sister.

Benedict is probably best known for his Rule of Benedict.
A playbook of how to live…in a monastery….
but whereas it is most a relevant and practical book for those living a cloistered life,
it is also a book most relevant for those of us outside of the monastery.

This little book is still in huge demand and is widely read today.
In fact, many businesses have adopted Benedict’s Rule as part of a guiding
and directional tool for their employees.

The good Father relays the teaching found in the homily offered on the feast day
of St Scholastica during their morning mass.
Where the notion of Contemplatio, Consideratio & Caritas was put before the gathered monks.

The abbot offering the homily tries to explain the balance between body and soul,
prayer and our often misguided practicalities…

“Put another way, it is to apply the primacy of love to any situation;
not the schmaltzy love favoured in muzak, but the love of God and of our neighbour
as ourselves, seen in one harmonious whole.
A good example would be Our Lord’s healing on the Sabbath:
he did not devalue the sabbath but put it in a proper sense of proportion,
as being made for man not man for it.

The abbot shared a story about Benedict’s sister the nun coming for a visit to
her brother the monk.
Her brother met her at the gate. Benedict and a few of the brothers left the
walls of the monastery in order to visit and share a meal with Scholastica.

Scholastica was keen to spend the day with Benedict and his brothers,
sharing stories about God’s power and grace.

As evening fell, Benedict told his sister that he and his fellow brothers
needed to be getting back to their abbey as she must hers.
She implored him to stay that they still had much to share.
But he insisted that he must leave her.
At this point, Scholastica took her brother’s hands within her own and began to
earnestly beseech God to impress upon her brother the importance that he should stay,
even throughout the night, in order that they may share in God’s good word.

And so a storm suddenly ensued.
Benedict reprimands his sister “What have you done?”.
Scholastica replied, “I asked you and you would not listen;
so I asked my God and he did listen.
So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.”
The storm was beating down too hard for Benedict or his companions to return to
his monastery, and they spent the night in discussion.”

(solemncharge.com)

The storm had made it impossible for Benedict to take his leave back to the
abbey and in turn, he had to spend the remainder of the evening in his sister’s
company discussing God’s glory and wonderment.

Benedict felt that the rules of his order, that he and the others were bound to follow,
that their return to the abbey was far more important
then talking about God all night long with his sister.

Finally, as daylight arrived and the storm had abated, Scholastica bid her brother farewell
as they each retreated and made their individual ways back to their respective abbeys.

Three days later Scholastica died, and Benedict had a vision of Scholastica’s soul
ascending to heaven in the form of a dove.
He sent his fellow monks to retrieve her body to his monastery and they laid it
in his own tomb.
She died about the year 543.
Her feast day is February 10th.

(solemncharge.com)

Benedict later reflected that because his sister “loved” more in her prayer of pure
earnestness, her will prevailed over his idealism of practicality.
Think Martha and Mary.
For her prayer that night was one of the pureness of charity and of a deep abiding love
as she most likely realized that her time death was imminent—
and that to spend what time was remaining together was most important.

Dom Hugh notes that “if we truly have charity for even those who disagree with us,
who peddle a line that reeks of error,
then we will achieve far more by persuasion than intimidation.
The achievement might come in God’s good time rather than our own,
a salutary reminder that instant gratification is not of the Gospel.
A sense of proportion, a healthy discretion, will keep us to this way.
It is all there in the Tradition.

It is interesting to note that when dealing with sinners Jesus was mildness itself.
His more strident tone was reserved for those who should have known better
or thought they knew better.

Caritas indeed.

Contemplatio, consideratio & caritas

friends and mates

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends.
I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”

―Jane Austen

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(the latest friend in the dammit family / Julie Cook / 2016)

Over the course of the past weekend, my son and his wife moved into their new apartment.
They did so with the help of group of friends.
Going from a house in the suburbs to a smaller apartment in the city will naturally take some adjusting,
however I think their level of excitement is far exceeding any need for adjustment.

I mention that they had a group of friends helping because that got me thinking.
Whereas my dear friends, or better yet mates, in the UK would naturally say
that it was my son’s mates who helped him out…
with mates referring to his friends,
I simply use the word friends…

All variances of semantics I suppose.

Yet when hearing the word friends referred to as mates,
I find that I actually prefer using the word mates as opposed to friends.

Friends come in all sorts of varying degrees of difference.
Close friends,
dear friends,
intimate friends,
partner,
buddy,
pal,
associates,
acquaintances,
roommates,
co-workers,
colleagues…
all of which constitute falling under the one umbrella of the collective word friends.
Some close, some really close, some not so close…

In my opinion however, the word mate, or the plural form mates, seems to refer to a tighter knit connection.
A closer level of familiarity and knowledge.

And when it comes to moving house—
especially with moving from a larger house to a smaller apartment almost 70 miles away,
it takes a really tight knit group of “friends,” hence mates,
volunteering their precious weekend time to drive back and forth,
hauling, lifting, toting, dissembling, reassembling the possessions of another….

As perhaps one’s mates come with a certain level of deeper commitment,
whereas ones friends fluctuate.

And of course in this country we refer to a spouse as a mate.
As in a pair.
As in a help mate.
As in soul mate.
As in a union of two becoming one.

So once again, mate having a tighter connection than just that of friend.

And as we so often refer to our Savior as our friend…
having the relationship with Jesus, as Lord and Savior is anything but that of a friend…
Despite hymns singing to the contrary and many who reference Him as their best friend…
there is difference between friend and God….

For the Xristósis, the Christos, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ…
is far greater than that of friend.
He and His relationship with us, those who claim Him as God,
exceeds the confine of friendship..

Being both God and Spirit, as He is of the Triune Godhead,
He commands so much more than our mere friendship…

Rather He commands our awe and wonderment…
And our reverence and our homage.

For He is not a mere friend,
not even a mate…
but rather a Sovereign God…

A God who cares about both our physical and emotional wants and needs,
yet deserves our reverence, our wonderment, our praise, our worship…

It is good to have friends, even better to have great mates…
but most importantly it behooves us to have a Savior, who gave His very life
for each and every last one of us…..

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Innocence and wonderment…

“In any case, you must remember, my dearest,
that the main strength of innocence is innocence itself.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”
Albert Einstein

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(an alert fawn in the backyard / Julie Cook / 2016)

It is now time that we all just stop for a moment.

Time to stop with all the…
malice and ill intent.

It is time to stop the…
polarization,
the divisions,
the anger,
the lies,
the slandering,
the accusatory nonsense…

It is time we stop just long enough….
Just long enough to remember…
to remember and recall that there is still a world…
a world where we can find…
innocence,
joy,
wonderment,
rapture,

A world still full of the…
amazing
miraculous
mystifying
and the loving…

A world where God’s Grace still remains…

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 8-10

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. . .

Wonderment transpires

Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.
Albert Schweitzer

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(a timely blooming of paperwhites / Julie Cook / 2015)

Within a mere matter of hours buds open and amazingly bloom,
filling this new day to this new chilly month with
the hope of things to come, the anticipation of joy,
and the wonderment of awe. . .

Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord

Psalm 102: 18